Zephryhills senator proposes adding social media safety courses to public schools

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

Sen. Danny Burgess (R-Zephyrhills), himself a father, said that while social media can be good, he wants students to learn about the potential dangers of scrolling the internet.

“The classroom is critical, especially in the social media world where parents may not have engaged with social media and may not know much about social media,” he said.

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

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“I think at the end of the day the clock cannot be turned back. Social media is widely used in our society today and children are confronted with social media more than ever. Certainly there are benefits, but there are also many risks,” Burgess said. “So this bill is designed not only to empower our parents by providing this material, but also to ensure that children are aware of the long-term risks of essentially having the world at your fingertips.”

The bill will require the Florida Department of Education to make social media safety training materials available online as well. It urges school authorities to let parents know the information is there as well.

“The things our children are being exposed to are disturbing. Kids lose their innocence earlier every day because of the things you can just see when you look up something online, even if they’re not looking for it,” Burgess said.

Burgess said the curriculum would be added to a course students are already taking.

“I realize I’m getting older and not cool anymore. I don’t think I ever was, but I’m definitely not cool anymore. So, you know, when it comes to TikTok or anything else, you see, there’s a bad dad joke,” Burgess said.

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

“All these different platforms that are out there. I’m not very versed with them. I have my government stuff that I use and other than that I don’t have a personal page. So I find it difficult to speak to my children as they get older about these risks,” he explained. “I think if this education is put in place, and not just a statute but at school level, it will ensure that all students, encompasses all students of all ages and all backgrounds and has this unified approach to a problem that I think is really cultural and societal.”