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USA TODAY, Associated Press
It’s probably no exaggeration to say that some students spend as much time on social media as they do in school.
Students in Florida public schools would devote their attention to social media in the classroom if a bill proposed by a Polk County lawmaker gains traction next year.
Florida Senator Danny Burgess, R-Zephyrhills, on Wednesday tabled a bill that would require public schools to include “social media literacy” in their curriculum. Burgess, a father of three under the age of 10, said he wants students to be more aware of the dangers they might encounter on popular internet platforms and mobile apps.
“Honestly, social media is incredibly ubiquitous in everyday life, in our society, everywhere, every minute you have access to it at your fingertips,” said Burgess, whose district includes Northwestern. Polk County. “It can make it easier to get to the things you are looking for or looking to do, but there are, in my opinion, a lot more risks and dangers, long term consequences, than I think our children, students, should. be aware of the use of these platforms. It is therefore an effort to simply educate.
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The concise bill would amend existing laws governing what is taught in public schools. He would ask the Florida Department of Education and county school boards to develop an educational curriculum to teach social media proficiency. The bill offers a detailed definition of social media – perhaps the first in a Florida bill, Burgess said – but does not spell out what literacy entails.
The bill does not mention any social media platform. The most popular are Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and WhatsApp.
“It’s not just, you know, how you posted that pic and it may come back to haunt you someday,” Burgess said. “It’s also – there’s a lot of danger out there, literal danger, you know, criminals, and so we have to make sure we educate them on horrible things like the human trafficking efforts that are online everywhere, and that’s what it is.
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The instruction could fit into existing guidelines, Burgess said. Florida requires a Kindergarten to Grade 12 character development component that is integrated into social studies, language arts, or other curriculum. Schools would not devote entire classes to a social media preview, Burgess said.
The material would also be posted online so that parents can access it and discuss the ideas with their children.
Burgess, who is in his first term, said he was not sure if similar legislation had been passed in other states.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the case, but quite honestly it’s kind of an idea we wanted to run with,” he said. “So I’m really excited to see if, interested to know if that has been the case. I hope it is because I think it is so important, but if it is not, maybe we can be the model for the nation. “
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Burgess tabled a bill on it in this year’s session. But he said the new bill was not motivated by political concerns.
“There is definitely no calendar or not – what word am I looking for?” – no specific position that seeks to be addressed here, other than, you know, again, knowledge is power, ”he said.
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Among the many criticisms that social media platforms have faced in recent years, Facebook in particular has come under scrutiny for allowing political and medical misinformation to proliferate among users. Burgess said disinformation could be addressed in the briefing, but not from a political or ideological perspective.
Although he did not introduce the bill until Wednesday, Burgess said he had already received favorable responses.
“Yes, I have received bipartisan and positive feedback,” he said. “I mean, it’s really a pure attempt to protect kids and hold parents accountable. So really, this is something that I think is going to transcend barriers and really, hopefully get strong bipartisan support. Looks like it’s in that direction.
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At least one Democrat, Representative Fentrice Driskell, D-Tampa, seems favorably inclined towards the proposal – although she also mentioned a political concern.
“Social media is one of the most important communication tools in our society,” Polk County native Driskell said via email. “This is why it is important that our young people are well informed on how to navigate and sift through all the information available online. We have seen regularly how disinformation threatens the health and safety of people, and on January 6 we saw how it threatened our democracy. Senator Danny Burgess’ SB 480 is designed to equip our kids with social media literacy so they can stay safe and be successful.
The 60-day session of the Legislative Assembly begins on January 11.
Gary White can be reached at [email protected] or 863-802-7518. Follow on Twitter @ garywhite13.