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Media Literacy

Bill mandating teaching on social media in public schools


Jesse Scheckner

By Jesse Scheckner for FloridaPolitics.com

A bill requiring public schools in Florida to include classes on social media alongside other compulsory curricula was approved by the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday with unified, non-partisan support.

SB 480, sponsored by Republican Senator Danny Burgess of Zephyrhills, would require public schools to educate students about social media, its benefits and dangers through instructions and rules developed by the Department of Education.

If the law is passed and signed by the governor, local school authorities would need to develop social media literacy lesson plans in accordance with state standards, make the appropriate teaching materials available online, and notify parents of their availability. These requirements would apply from July 1, 2022.

Classes would be compulsory, such as that of African American history, elements of civil government, the history of the Holocaust, and the effects of alcohol and intoxicating spirits, beverages and narcotics, and many other subjects.

“Ultimately, there is no turning back the clock,” said Burgess. “This bill is designed not only to empower parents by making this material available, but also to ensure that our children are aware of the long-term risks associated with essentially having the world at hand.”

The bill – which would provide Florida with its first legal definition of social media – would have no impact on government revenue or spending, although it could have tax implications for school districts, according to Kendra Jahnke, the committee’s senior legislative analyst.

“Social media play an essential role in today’s culture,” she wrote in her analysis of the draft law, citing surveys from 2018 and 2021 that showed that 90% of young people between the ages of 13 and 17 reported having used social media . These surveys also showed that 75% of teenagers by the age of 17 had at least one active social media profile and more than 67% had their own mobile devices with internet capabilities.

According to Jahnke, the potential benefits social media offers include staying in touch with friends, meeting new friends with common interests, finding community and support for activities, sharing artwork or music, self-expression and self-exploration.

Potential risks include: exposure to harmful or inappropriate content, exposure to dangerous people, cyberbullying, excessive disclosure of personal information, exposure to excessive advertising, privacy concerns such as collecting data on teenage users, identity theft, hacking and sleep disorders, exercise, or homework Family activities.

“Requiring classes in social media competence could give students a better understanding of the benefits and risks of communicating and exchanging information on social media platforms,” ​​wrote Jahnke.

If the bill is passed, social media would be defined in state law as “a form of interactive electronic communication through an Internet website or application that allows a user to create a service-specific user profile in order to connect with other users of the Internet website , or use for the purpose of communicating and sharing information, ideas, news, stories, opinions, images and other content. “

Burgess said he otherwise kept the language of the bill loose so the DOE and school districts can refine curricula as needed. The lesson itself would be “integrated into a suitable class,” he said, “as opposed to creating a whole new class with a whole new teacher who would have to spend 100% of the time because we know (are teachers) in 100 Millions of directions drawn. “

Florida PTA Legislative Chairwoman Karen Mazzola and Heidi Daniels of the Florida Citizens Alliance and Defend Florida appeared at the meeting to demonstrate their support for the bill.

Democratic Senator Shevrin Jones, vice chair of the committee, called Burgess’ point “a good bill”. Jones noticed problematic social media trends like the TikTok “Slap a Teacher” challenge and asked if the curriculum under consideration was general or specific for platforms like Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, Discord, Twitch, and Omegle may be.

Burgess said he hopes the lessons address everything, which is why local input is vital.

“I find it difficult to talk to my growing children about these risks, so I think this education is set not only by law but also at the school level to ensure that all students of all ages are covered in all areas.” And has this unified approach to a cultural and societal problem, ”he said. “The things our children are exposed to are worrying. Children are losing their innocence more and sooner every day because of the things that you can easily see when you access something online, even when they are not looking for them. That’s what this is about. “

Jesse Scheckner has been reporting on South Florida since 2012, with a focus on Miami-Dade County. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, the Society of Professional Journalists, the Florida Society of News Editors, the Florida MMA Awards, and the Miami New Times. Email him at Jesse@FloridaPolitics.com and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


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