Florida bill would require schools to teach benefits, risks of social media

Florida schools would be required to teach students the benefits and risks of social media under a bill unanimously approved Tuesday by the Senate Education Committee.

If passed, a curriculum would be developed and school districts would be required to implement it into existing courses. The curriculum would also be made available to parents. The bill would also define social media in state law for the first time.

"The things that our kids are exposed to is troubling. Kids are losing their innocence more and more every day earlier because of the things you can just see by pulling it up online, even if they’re not looking for it," said Republican Sen. Danny Burgess, the bill’s sponsor.

And while he said that parents should be involved in this discussion at home, many aren’t familiar with the variety of social media platforms children have access to.

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"All these different platforms that are out there, I’m not very savvy with them. I have my government stuff that I utilize. But other than that, I don’t have a personal page, so it’s hard for me to talk to my kids who are coming up in age about these risks," Burgess said.

The bill received enthusiastic support from Democrats and Republicans.

"You look at how social media is morphing, and some of the stuff and the content that’s coming across is dangerous," said Democratic Sen. Shevrin Jones.

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Republican Sen. Jennifer Bradley encouraged Burgess to think about expanding the bill’s language to include other online activities.

"I love this bill," Bradley said. "I almost think the bill could even be a little bit broader, there’s certainly your social media platforms, but there’s a lot that happens online with websites."

The bill has two more committee stops before reaching the full Senate. An identical House bill has yet to be heard in committee. The Legislature begins its annual 60-day session on Jan. 11.