Filed amendment would prevent Florida students from accessing social media platforms at school

by | Jan 23, 2023

  • A bill amendment filed by Rep. Brad Yeager seeks to block students from accessing social media platforms on school grounds.
  • Yeager also filed to implement social media safety education measures in Florida’s standardized curriculum. 
  • The amendment closely resembles a bill filed by Sen. Danny Burgess last December. 
  • The action comes as Florida’s top educational institutions weigh levying a ban on the popular social media platform TikTok.

An amendment to a bill filed on Monday by Rep. Brad Yeager would require Florida schools to block students from accessing social media sites through the use of internet access provided by a school district. The legislation also seeks to implement social media safety education in grades 6 through 12.

Should the amendment garner the approval of state politicians, each school district would be required by law to install a firewall on school Wi-Fi systems to prevent students from accessing popular social media platforms while using the network.

Florida school districts have long been permitted to revoke student access from websites via a firewall, with the measure oftentimes utilized to prevent access to websites hosting lewd or controversial content.

Yeager’s filing also outlines a proposal to add social media education to learning plans for those in 6th grade and above. Necessary teachings include the advantages of social media usage in relevance to career and networking advancement, such as resume building and academic opportunities.

According to the amendment, students would also be taught effective ways to avert social media addiction, misinformation, and negative mental health consequences. Further lesson planning would teach students how to maintain privacy on social media, protect personal information, and identify predator behavior in online settings.

The amendment closely resembles a bill filed by Sen. Danny Burgess in December that also aims to include social media education in Florida’s standardized curriculum.

“For better or worse, social media is a part of our society,” said Burgess on Twitter. “Knowledge is power, but due to the rapidly changing nature of social media and the continuous development of new apps targeting children, it is hard for parents to feel confident that they can keep their kids safe online.”

Burgess filed a near-identical bill during the last Legislative Session, picking up sponsors from Minority Senate Leader Lauren Book and recently-appointed Board of Governors Chancellor Sen. Ray Rodrigues.

While last year’s bill appeared to gain traction, it died in the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education.

The pair of social media-focused filings come as Florida’s top universities focus on the security risk of popular social media app TikTok.

Earlier this month, the University of Florida advised its students to abandon using TikTok, citing growing security concerns that the platform poses.

In an email to the UF students and staff, Vice President and CIO Elias G. Eldayrie said that the university has been monitoring developments, noting growing cybersecurity concerns and security risks.

“There is a strong possibility that TikTok will be added in the future to the Fast Path list of software applications not permitted on university devices and networks,” the letter says. “[The app] gets access to many things on your phone besides what you use their app for.”

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis also warned of using TikTok in the past and recently labeled it as “digital fentanyl” in a Fox News interview. Patronis spoke on the matter again on Monday, indicating that university officials could take action to regulate the app.

“It’s very concerning having TikTok on our university campuses,” said Patronis. “We are the most innovative country on the planet and we are allowing this app to go unchecked. All of the Chancellors need to make this a priority, and if they don’t, Trustees should get involved.”


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