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Holladay Journal

Governor visits Bonneville Jr. High to discuss students’ mental health and social media use

Dec 02, 2022 01:14PM ● By Heather Lawrence

By Heather Lawrence | [email protected]

Gov. Spencer Cox was at Bonneville Jr. High on a teacher work day Oct. 17. The governor delivered a message about mental health that he thought was especially applicable to junior high-age students. Teachers, administrators, parents and community partners were in the audience.

“We’ve been doing some research on the mental health of our young people. It’s no secret that social media has a dark side and can bring on some challenges,” Cox said.

Cox cited the Mayo Clinic’s findings that social media can negatively affect teens across the nation, specifically “distracting them, disrupting their sleep, and exposing them to bullying, rumor spreading, unrealistic views of other people’s lives and peer pressure.”

Cox acknowledged that older generations have a tendency to think whatever the new technology is will “ruin our kids.” But he said social media is very different from every other form of media we’ve had in the past because it’s not passive, it’s active.

“Just like we passed seatbelt laws and tobacco regulations to protect minors’ physical health, I’m asking you to join me in supporting common-sense solutions and work together to protect the mental health of our students,” Cox said.

One of Cox’s solutions was to get cellphones out of the classroom. Not just turned off, but physically away from students during class time.

“This isn’t about getting rid of technology in classrooms. We have enough laptops and iPads for our students to use during school. If we get that handheld device off them, then they’re not reaching for it; they don’t feel like they’re missing out on something,” Cox said.

The governor also pointed out that if students weren’t using phones during class, teachers wouldn’t have to compete with the “instant gratification” of social media during instruction time.

Cox said social media companies need to be held accountable and need to make it easier for parents to monitor their students and help them make good choices. He said there’s legislation in the works to help with this.

But the governor also called on parents to do what they could.

“We need to give parents the ability to decide if and when your child is ready for social media,” Cox said.

Cox said parents should make sure cell phone use doesn’t interfere with sleep, meals or homework time. He said keeping cellphones out of kids’ bedrooms is a rule at his house that helps with that.

He also asked parents to monitor their children’s accounts and explain what’s OK to do, say and view online and what isn’t. He said parents should encourage their kids to spend time face to face with people. If their kids’ school has a no cellphone policy, please support it.

Cox also reminded parents that they set the example for social media usage in their homes, and their kids are watching them. If parents are on Facebook ranting and putting down others, kids are picking up on that behavior.

“We have kids growing up in homes where they feel like they have to compete with Instagram and Facebook for their parents’ attention. As parents we need to be aware of our cell phone usage, especially in front of our kids. If we put it away, we set good expectations for our young people,” Cox said.

Cox reminded the audience of the Safe UT app and that parents can teach their kids how to use that for their own mental health and the safety of their schools and communities.

Bonneville administration posted about the visit on Instagram.

“What an honor it was to host @govcox at Bonneville Junior High School today! He gave a press conference about the relationship between social media and mental health and what we can do about it together as parents, educators and a community.

“His message is so important and emphasizes a need for more connection,” the post read.

Emma Williams is the governor’s public relations officer. She said Cox worked with Granite School District to find a good place to deliver the message.

“We really wanted the address to be delivered at a junior high school, and Bonneville has a great auditorium. The governor’s comments about mental health and screen usage were especially relevant to that age group,” Williams said. “These issues are hitting our t