School Kids in Florida Could Soon Be Educated on the Harmful Effects of Social Media, and Denied Access in School Too

Toby Hazlewood

Teachers could have the power to confiscate phones
Girl on phonePhoto byShutterstock

A Florida Republican - Senator Danny Burgess - is sponsoring a new bill that seeks to tackle the harm that social media can inflict on kids, by mandating education for grades pre-K through 12 on the "social, emotional and physical effects of social media".

Bill SB52 was introduced in December of 2022. On March 14 2023 it received unanimous support from the Appropriations Committee for Education, 12 votes to 0, and is now headed to the Senate for consideration.

Greater powers (and responsibilities) for schools

In addition for calling for mandatory education for kids, the bill also gives teachers the freedom to confiscate a student's phone if they are attempting to use it during lessons, and also requires that schools should prevent kids from accessing social media platforms via their Internet service.

The bill passing with such unified support comes at a time when Americans are growing ever-more concerned over the harmful effects of social media use amongst kids. A study by the CDC, reported on March 17 suggests that as many as 42% of teenagers reported feeling "persistently sad or hopeless" as a direct effect of social media usage.

If the report is to be believed, then the bill proposed by the Florida Republican - Senator Burgess - seems quite timely. Whether its provisions will have the desired effect (if the bill becomes law), remains to be seen but it's a step in the right direction.

More work for teachers

There are two potentially negative side-effects to the bill of course - first is that it will place an additional burden of responsibility upon Florida's public school teachers to deliver the new curriculum, but also to play the role of enforcer of new rules. Any parent who has tried to confiscate their child's phone will be familiar with the challenges that this can bring.

While Governor DeSantis was at pains in his recent 'State-of-the-State' address to emphasize the investment that Florida has made in schools, and the policies that have been applied to protect kids, this could be yet another law that falls on hardworking teachers to enforce.

A form of censorship?

Another angle or side-effect if the bill comes into law is the idea that it could represent a form of censorship of freedoms - something that largely sits at odds in the Florida that Governor DeSantis has been advocating for in his recent national campaign.
U.S. ConstitutionPhoto byShutterstock

While the bill is primarily about protecting the interests of kids, there's an aspect to it that seems to imply that denying access to the service will eradicate the problems.

It seems a contradictory scenario to that which DeSantis was trying to tackle with a bill to stop censorship on social media - laws that were ultimately overturned by a federal court. In short, are Florida's Republican leaders in favor of social media platforms being freely accessible and for people to say what they want without restriction, or should there be rules and controls in place?

The bill seems likely to make it into law given the support it's received so far. Whether it's well received, or has the desired effects remains to be seen.

Are you in favor of education for kids on the dangers of social media? Do you think it's fair that teachers should have to enforce such rules? Should there be any censorship in regard to social media, who can access it and what they can say? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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