New bill would ban Florida students from using social media at school

HB 379, awaiting governor's signature, requires social media safety lessons for middle, high school students
A student with a cell phone inside a Florida classroom during the 2022-23 academic year.jpg
Posted at 8:56 PM, May 08, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-08 20:56:00-04

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — A bill heading to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for his signature would change the way your kids use their cell phones in school.

HB 379, formally titled "Technology In K-12 Public Schools," would require social media safety be taught to older students, and would also prohibit students from using social media while on school district internet access.

Let's face it, most students have cell phones while in school. But this new law would require teachers to have a designated area for students to put their phones in during instructional time.


"If the students aren't educated in how to use the tool properly, that's where harm can come in," Palm Beach County middle school teacher Karen Epstein said.

Epstein is always reinforcing internet and social media safety with her students.

"The power they have now didn't exist, and that has awesome responsibilities and awesome consequences all at the same time," Epstein said.

A new law on its way to DeSantis would not only support, but require those social media safety lessons for middle and high school students. Topics would include mental health, security, human trafficking, and cyberbullying.

"The main thing we hear from students that they experience online is the bullying aspects," said Tammy Fields, the director of the Palm Beach County Youth Services department.

Fields said that while there are some positive uses for social media, she sees the problems it can cause everyday.

"I don't think kids and some adults understand how long something is going to be on the internet. Once it's there, it's always there," Fields said.

The new law would not only ban students from accessing social media while using school district internet, but they could not use their phones during instructional time, unless a teacher gives them permission as part of the lesson.

"It makes sense that kids are not on their phones while they're in the classroom," Fields said. "The only caution I have would be that the phone is still accessible in the event of an emergency."

Palm Beach County parents like Scott Borden always have internet safety top of mind.

"We monitor, but we don't overstep our boundaries, because we know that can lead them in the opposite direction," Borden said. "But we have our eyes on anything that might raise an eyebrow."

Supporting everyone working together to help kids make smart decisions behind a screen.

The law would also completely ban using TikTok on school district-owned devices, through internet access provided by a school district, or as a platform to promote any district school, club, or team.

If DeSantis signs the measure into law, it would go into effect on July 1.