Experts want to give young people tools to make the right decisions on social media


“Young people spending less than half an hour a day on social media regain strengthened self-esteem and well-being within a few weeks. Thus, it is our task to give them the tools they need to make wise decisions online,” stated lifestyle educator Anna Nygren in front of a packed auditorium as U-FOLD arranged the seminar TikToks • Addictions for a new generation.

Seminar TikToks • Addictions for a new generation

Screens and social media are occupying increasingly more of our time. Last week, executives of Facebook, TikTok and several other platforms were qustioned in the US Senate. In Denmark, the National Board of Health is campaigning to persuade children not to have mobile phones in their bedrooms at night - and Wednesday 7 February U-FOLD arranged the seminar TikToks • Addictions for a new generation. The meeting aroused great interest and when the forum's chair, Mathias Hallberg, entered the stage of the Uppsala University Main auditorium, all 900 seats had long been booked.

“Addiction and abuse present our society with complex challenges without simple answers. Thus, we need a joint arena where research, profession and politics can meet to identify the right direction for the future. With U-FOLD, we have created this platform, uniting the good forces of society, and that we today greet so many high school students naturally provides extra inspiration in our endeavor to contribute to a positive environment to grow up in Uppsala and Sweden,” stated Fred Nyberg, initiator and Senior adviser to U-FOLD.

The seminar addressed a number of the many reasons for concern that are currently reaching us: Our teens are sleeping less and less. The Swedish PISA results are in a negative trend. Mental illness is spreading epidemic style and several studies point to our rapidly increasing screen use as a contributing factor. Anna Nygren, student health expert at Ung Livsstil, pinpointed the important task of schools and parents to give children and young people the necessary conditions to make wise decisions online:

Participants gathered from all over Sweden
Participants gathered from all over Sweden

“Today, 73 percent of all young people aged 15 to 24 feel that they spend too much time in front of screens, and it is the mobile cameras and apps in particular that are causing the anxiety epidemic we are currently experiencing. A new study shows that young people who spend no more than half an hour a day on social media regain strengthened self-esteem and well-being after just a few weeks. If they also refrain from publishing material, their ability to focus and concentrate also increases. Therefore we have to add resources to train children and young people to avoid what poses risks for them online.”

Ulrika Caperius, publisher at Bonnier Carlsen and member of the Swedish Reading Council, reported that 60 percent of Sweden's fifteen-year-olds state that they only read when they must. In parallel, one in five in the same age group does not reach higher than the basic level in reading abilities, which might cause a severely limited vocabulary. With regular reading, on the other hand, improved empathy, critical thinking and future prospects are identified - which makes the increasingly popular hashtag #BookTok, attracting young people to once more approach literature, a welcome spot on the Internet.

“In recent years, our lives have undergone a completely unique change, and when global tech giants design social media for a "race to the bottom of the brain", we are facing a tough fight - so think kind thoughts about yourselves when It's hard to put the phone away. At the same time, we know that a majority of all 18-year-olds try to multitask when doing their homework. Likewise, the proportion of 15-year-olds who go to bed after 11 p.m. has doubled in recent decades. Therefore, we need to give students the knowledge and tools they need to make choices that make them feel good,” stated Sissela Nutley, researcher at KI and initiator of Arts & Hearts.

Among the many new phenomena of the digital world, "Crimfluencers" – the police's term for gang criminals who use social media to spread their messages – is among the more unwelcome. With almost advertising-style videos, young people are lured with money, brotherhood and guns. With filmed crimes and assaults, violence is demonstrated with the aim to scare into obedience. But just as quickly, the material can cause escalated conflicts that often backfire on the sender.

Jale Poljarevius advocates online patrolling policemen
Jale Poljarevius advocates policemen patrolling online

“You want to establish an image of yourself as "the winning team", but reality often catches up: Recently, a criminal managed to stage his own death and get his hands on the million dollars a competing gang had put on his head. Shortly thereafter, he posted a video of himself, alive and waving bankrolls – only to be shot dead in Iraq a few weeks later. It is obvious that social media can be a dangerous weapon, therefore it is up to us police officers to patrol the web, but also on parents and adults to have preventive talks with children about what the might actually face on these platforms,” stated Jale Poljarevius, Head of intelligence in Police Region Central.

The concluding panel discussion, The Way Forward, addressed the needs for responsible editors and regulatory functions on social media. Increased resources for knowledge dissemination and prevention were also advocated. The idea of potential bans was dismissed by the entire panel that preferred efforts where needs are identified, as well as affirmation of aspects that add positive values to our children's development.

“With today's seminar, we are focusing on a new generation and my hope is that everyone in the auditorium returns home with valuable knowledge. Now, we look forward to our next meeting place: Vägval • Att anta beroendets utmaningar, where we, with a focus on drug related death, trauma, anxiety, present Andrew Holmes, one of the world's foremost addiction researchers, who will give this year's Göran Gustafsson lecture: Anxiety, trauma and the road to addiction: New insights from brain science, which will undoubtedly be highly interesting,” says Mathias Hallberg, chair of U-FOLD and Professor at the Faculty of Pharmacy.


  • Uppsala University's Forum for research on drug dependence and addiction.
  • Inaugurated in Uppsala in 2011 as a regional gathering of forces against the challenges of addiction.
  • Gathers approximately 20 organizations working together for a better society.



Uppsala University invites to the Göran Gustafsson Symposium 2024. With a focus on drug-related death, trauma, anxiety and the Swedish drug enquiry, we meet Göran Gustafsson Lecturer in Medicine Andrew Holmes (USA), Mathias Hallberg, Hanna Ljungvall, Fred Nyberg (Uppsala University), Lotta Borg Skoglund ( SMART psykiatri) and Håkan Leifman (KI) reporting from the absolute frontline of addiction research.

Göran Gustafsson Symposium 2024

Time  Tuesday 9 April, 13.00-17.00
Venue  Uppsala University Main building, sal X, Biskopsgatan 3
Register • Fri entrance
Program & Information  Vägval • Att anta beroendets utmaningar


Mathias HallbergMathias Hallberg, Professor
Department of Pharmaceutical Biosciences

Fred NybergFred Nyberg, Senior adviser, U-FOLD
Professor em, Uppsala University

Text: Magnus Alsne, photo: Mikael Wallerstedt  a o

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Last modified: 2024-04-04