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Bill Restricting Access to Social Media in Schools Breezes Through House Committee

A bill aimed at restricting access to social media websites through school district networks and district-owned devices was unanimously passed by the Choice and Innovation Subcommittee.

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TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — On Thursday, The Choice and Innovation Subcommittee unanimously passed HB 379, a bill that will restrict access to social media platforms in schools throughout the state. Sponsored by Rep. Brad Yeager (R-Pasco County), the bill aims to ameliorate the many harmful effects social media has had on students by erecting firewalls preventing students from accessing social media platforms during school hours.

Rep. Yeager began his testimony by presenting a study by Common Sense Media. He stated, “According to [the outlet] by the age of 12, 69% of kids own a smartphone and 95% of teenagers will access social media. This rise in social media use has shown an increase in cyberbullying as well as impacts on mental health among kids.”

The bill saw very little pushback as representatives from both sides of the aisle were quick to give testimony in support. Rep. Yeager explained that the firewall would prevent both staff and students from accessing social media sites through the school network or on a school-owned or district-owned device.

The only slight hesitancy regarding the bill in its current form came from Rep. Susan L. Valdez (D-Tampa), who expressed concern over the fact that although a firewall will be created, students would still be able to use their personal network to access social media if they really wanted to.

“I hope that the intent of what we’re trying to do gets at the core of this bill, because you can get around firewalls…[however] I’m very excited to support this bill today,” she concluded.

In addition to creating a firewall that restricts social media access, the bill will also prohibit the use of TikTok on district-owned devices or as a platform to communicate any school activity; give teachers the authority to designate a specific area for cell phones to be placed in during instructional time in their classroom; prohibit the use of cell phones during instructional time; and educate 6–12 graders on the risk and dangers of social media, on topics such as cyberbullying, predatory behavior and human trafficking.

The bill now heads to the PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee, followed by the Education & Employment Committee, where it is likely to be met with similar approval.