Gov. Spencer Cox addresses mental health problems caused by social media towards teenagers

Jan 10, 2023, 2:10 PM | Updated: May 15, 2023, 1:59 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Gov. Spencer Cox led a discussion on teens and tech at a Social Media and Youth Mental Health Symposium held at OC Tanner on Tuesday.

He drew insight from several experts, including educators, policymakers, and advocates.

Research shows kids who spend more time on digital media are experiencing more negative effects from it – such as depression and mental health problems.

Panelists took a closer look at some of these contributing factors, discussed ways to protect youth, and explored the role of parents, educators, and lawmakers.

Brad Wilcox, a professor at the University of Virginia and Director of the National Marriage Project, said data shows girls are suffering more emotionally and psychologically than boys.

For example, there have been tremendous spikes with girls experiencing depression, suicide, and self-harm, according to Wilcox. In 2010, it was 12%. Now that number has doubled to 24%.

Cox said we can no longer do nothing and only hope the problem will disappear.

“You see kids going into college less prepared than ever before, and not just that, but it’s the polarization that is happening in our country, the divisiveness that we’re seeing that is exacerbated by these platforms, and so it’s going to continue to get worse, and that’s my biggest fear,” Cox said at the conference.

So, what can parents do?

In research conducted by Wilcox titled “Teens and Tech (Oct. 2022)”, they recommend;

  • Keep electronic devices out of children’s bedrooms after bedtime.
  • Don’t allow children 12 and under to have social media accounts; 16 or even 18 is a more appropriate age.
  • A good age for teens to have smartphones is around 16 to 18.
  • And limit the time your child spends on social media. No more than two to three hours a day is ideal.

Cox said a significant component of this is policies put forth by lawmakers that will help support parents and educators.

It’s something the panel will be discussing in more detail at the conference and providing a preview of what lawmakers will be looking at this upcoming legislative session.

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Gov. Spencer Cox addresses mental health problems caused by social media towards teenagers