- Florida State Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis backed two bills, HB 379 and SB 52, which mandate that school districts prevent students from accessing TikTok on district wifi.
- The bills would require each school district to install a firewall on their Wi-Fi system to prevent access to popular social media platforms.
- The bill also includes social media education plans for 6th grade and above, covering topics such as privacy, predator behavior, and addiction.
- The bills come as top universities in Florida focus on the security risks posed by TikTok, with some advising students to abandon use of the app and the Florida Board of Governors considering a ban.
The bills mandate that Florida school districts prohibit students from accessing social media platforms, including TikTok, using wifi connection provided by the district.
If adopted, 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.
“Children are the future, so I’m not sure why we would ever allow something as addicting and useless as TikTok to be allowed in our K-12 institutions,” said Patronis. “As schools are using more-and-more technology and parents are giving their children smartphones and other devices, Florida schools should take a hard stand that this isn’t an acceptable application to be used on school grounds.”
TikTok has been accused of collecting vast amounts of personal data from its users, including their location, browsing history, and contacts, which could potentially be shared with third parties or the Chinese government.
The platform also stores personal data, including biometric data, which may be vulnerable to data breaches and unauthorized access by hackers.
Yeager’s filing also outlines a proposal to add social media education to learning plans for those in 6th grade and above. Curriculum teachings include the advantages of social media usage for career and networking advancement, such as resume building and academic opportunities, according to the bill.
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 Burgess in December that also seeks 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.”
The pair of social media-focused filings come as Florida’s top universities focus on the security risk of 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 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.”
Moreover, the Florida Board of Governors contemplated proposing a ban on TikTok from higher education institutions in Florida.
Patronis in recent weeks has embarked on a media campaign featuring appearances on Fox News and similar outlets where he has referred to TikTok as “digital fentanyl.”