Zephryhills senator proposes adding social media safety courses in public schools

One Florida state senator is proposing a bill in the 2023 legislative session that, if passed, would require schools to teach a social media safety class.

Sen. Danny Burgess (R-Zephyrhills), a father himself, said while social media can be good, he wants students to learn about the potential dangers as they scroll through the Internet.

"The classroom is critically important, especially in the world of social media where parents may not have been engaged in social media, may not know a lot of the ins and outs of social media," he said.

Burgess said he also wants students to be reminded that their posts could come back to haunt them and could affect their reputations.

"I think at the end of the day, there's no turning back the clock. Social media is very prevalent in our society today and children are exposed to social media more than ever before. Certainly, there's benefits, but there's also a lot of risks," Burgess said. "So, this bill is intended to empower not just our parents by providing this material, but also make sure children are aware of the long-lasting risks that are inherent with having essentially the world at your fingertips."

The bill asks the Florida Department of Education to make the social media safety instructional material also available online. It asks school boards to let parents know that the information is there too.

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

Burgess said the curriculum would be added to a course that students already take.

"I'm realizing that I'm getting older and not cool. I don't think I ever was, but I'm definitely not cool anymore. So, you know, when it's the TikTok or something else, you see it, there's a bad dad joke," Burgess said.

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Burgess proposed a similar bill last session. It got through the first committee but didn’t gain much traction after that. Lawmakers will address Burgess’ new bill and others when they head back to Tallahassee in March.

"All these different platforms that are out there. I'm not very savvy with them. I have my government stuff that I utilize, and 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," he explained. "I think having this education set in and not just statute, but at the school level, it's going to make sure that it captures all students, all students of all ages and all areas and has that uniform approach to a problem that I think is really cultural and societal."