State leaders launch media campaign on the dangers of social media

Aug 3, 2023, 3:25 PM | Updated: 4:29 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — State leaders launched a new campaign Tuesday aimed at unmasking the dangers of social media.

Gov. Spencer Cox is leading the charge to hold companies like TikTok accountable.

The governor isn’t backing down from this battle. It’s a personal one because it affects kids. 

New ads rolled out Tuesday showing how social media addiction can devastate a young person’s life and what steps parents can take to protect them.

Cox and health leaders released these powerful messages on social media – a platform that a third of teens 13-17 years old use “almost constantly”, according to the U.S Surgeon General’s Advisory. 

“It’s really important to meet people where they are,” Cox said.  “Social media isn’t inherently good or bad it’s how we use it and the content.” 

He drew on troubling data:

  • 88% of parents say social media has a detrimental impact on children’s mental health and well-being. (Social Media Survey)
  • Mental illness in teens increased between 50% and 150% (2009-2019) (Jonathon Haldt)
  • Young adults who use social media are three times as likely to suffer from depression. (University of Utah Health study)

These stats play into the governor’s decision to enact laws limiting how children can use social media and hold companies like TikTok accountable.

Back in March Cox signed a bill that requires minors to obtain the consent of a guardian before joining social media platforms, marking the most aggressive step yet by state or federal lawmakers to protect kids online.

“The algorithms are bad, the addictive qualities of social media are bad and so that’s what we’re trying to do,” Aimee Winder Newton with the Office of Families said. “These kids are getting exposed to pornography to predators, bullying to body image issues.”

She said parents don’t have all the answers. She hopes this campaign will help them set better boundaries with their kids. 

“Less phone time. Let’s have better human connections and more time with each other than being on our devices every day,” she said. 

Cox said he doesn’t allow his 16-year-old daughter to have social media.

In December he issued an executive order prohibiting the use of TikTok on all state-owned devices.

The order states that agency or agency employees may not, on any state-owned electronic device, download or use the TikTok app or visit the TikTok website in a browser.

He wants families to come up with a plan on how to manage technology.

He also shared with us that he is planning to sue more social media platforms. 

The campaign – which will also include billboard displays – runs through Spring 2024. The Utah Legislature appropriated $500,000 and the Utah Department of Commerce contributed $750,000.

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State leaders launch media campaign on the dangers of social media