Gov. Cox declares this summer to be phone free — at least once a week

By: Alixel Cabrera, Utah News Dispatch

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox is asking Utahns to unplug from their smartphones every Friday this summer. Or, at least one day a week.

Cox declared June 14 to Aug. 15, 2024 as “Utah’s phone-free Friday summer,” quoting studies from the National Institutes of Health showing the detriments of smartphones and internet addiction in his declaration encouraging all Utahns to commit to going phone-free.

“Our lives have been transformed by social media and technology, and we are continually guided by algorithms designed to preoccupy our brains,” Cox wrote in the declaration, adding that “the phone-based world we live in greatly affects our emotions and can lead to heightened anxiety, depression and disconnection from others.

He made a special note that smartphones and social media negatively impact Utah youth, and especially affects Gen Z.

The governor has signed some of the most restrictive laws to curb social media use among Utah teens by requiring parental consent to users under 18 years old. Those bills have been challenged by free speech groups and big tech companies, who argue the legislation is “an unconstitutional mess,” and that it could have a chilling effect on children’s free speech — especially those in complex living situations — and their ability to reach their digital communities.

Cox’s declaration encouraged participants to start phone-free date nights, dinners or family time.

“As we continue to recognize the harmful effects of social media and constant phone use, we encourage parents, educators and community members to focus on cell phone-free environments and support regular time away from devices,” the declaration reads.

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