TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A state lawmaker is again trying to require Florida's public schools to teach social media safety. The education would not just remind students of potential dangers but that posts can come back to damage a person's reputation.
"Twenty years from now, if a photo resurfaces or a thing you said online that was really bad comes back — it can haunt you," Sen. Danny Burgess, R-Zephyrhills, said.
That's just one of the reasons Burgess said Florida's public schools should be teaching students how to protect themselves from bad actors, like predators or cyberbullying, and perhaps bad posts too.
"It's really hard when you're young to understand the reverberations, ramifications of things that you do while you're young, and how they can impact your life later on," he said.
Burgess's bill directs the Florida Department of Education to come up with the specifics of the curriculum and likely add lessons to an already existing course. The state already does this for required instruction on U.S. history, the Holocaust and more.
If this social media course sounds familiar— that's because it is. Burgess offered it last session as well. It got through its first committee but failed to go any further despite unanimous support.
"I'm sure there's some more broader things that we can do," Sen. Shevrin Jones, D-Miami Gardens, said during the Education Committee meeting in November of last year. "But, I do believe that this is a step in the right direction to educate students on what's the best, proper way to use it."
Burgess said the bipartisan support is back this year. He also thinks 2023 will afford him more time to make the bill law.
"At the end of the day, this transcends politics. This is about our society," Burgess said. "It's about our kids. It's about protecting them."
Burgess's legislation is just one of more than 70 bills that lawmakers have filed ahead of the 2023 session. Members typically have more than 3,000 bills to consider by the time the gavel drops. They'll return to Tallahassee in March and have 60 days to consider what stays and what goes.