When your child is in pain, you do something. You search for the cause of that pain, you work to heal your child and prevent it from happening again.

Better yet, prevent it from happening the first time.

That’s at the heart of the effort underway in Utah to help parents understand the harmful role social media plays in the lives of their children (and it’s not so great for adults, either).

“What we’re trying to do is empower parents, give parents the tools that they need to actually raise their kids. We do believe that parents should be raising their kids and not social media companies, and that is what is happening right now,” Gov. Spencer Cox told reporters last week when he launched the state’s social media awareness campaign.

Sometimes the public responds with rolled eyes to public awareness campaigns, even suggesting it’s wasted money designed to make us feel good about ourselves. This is not one of those cases. This campaign is as important as the push for seat belt use — “Buckle Up!” — and the life-and-death campaigns to stop highway death — “Don’t Drink and Drive!”

The data tells us the fears are real. So it’s no wonder this campaign is done in conjunction with the governor’s relatively new Office of Families as well as the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Commerce.

Social media attacks self esteem. It contributes to suicide. In short, it can cost lives.

We support the effort because these are not hollow words. The campaign is designed to give parents the tools they need to work with their children. You don’t give a child a knife without letting them know the risks and how best to use it, care for it, and protect yourself from it.

Yet the knife, like the internet and social media, can be useful, not harmful, if used appropriately at the right time.

Research that led to the campaign suggests that 88% of Utah parents say social media has a detrimental impact on the mental health and well-being of children. It impacts body image, brain development and sleep patterns. Loss of sleep affects school performance. Anxiety can build. It necessitates the need for boundaries.

Where are the tools? On the website socialharms.utah.gov. Data is there. Videos are there; they can be watched with youth. The site suggests creating a family media plan and tech-free zones. We encourage you to explore it.

The goal is to put pressure on social media companies to remove social media’s harmful elements, while promoting responsible use. As Cox noted: “Social media has the potential to be incredibly positive. We all thought it was going to be the greatest thing that ever happened to us as a society, and it turns out it’s been the exact opposite.”

As Vanessa Hudson reported in this publication, the Utah Legislature has passed two bills regulating social media. Both will take effect on March 1, 2024. Sen. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, created an age verification requirement for Utahns wishing to use social media with SB152, the Utah Social Media Regulation Act. HB311 from Rep. Jordan Teuscher, R-South Jordan, prohibits a social media company from using any design element or feature deemed as addictive to minors.

It is time to do something. Utah is leading out. This is an opportunity for each of us to get on board, before social media cuts too deeply.