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Should social media safety be taught in Florida public schools?

Proposed bill would require social media safety as part of Sunshine State curriculum
Wellington Landings Middle School teacher Karen Epstein instructs students during the 2022-23 academic year.jpg
Posted at 5:35 PM, Jan 25, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-26 09:54:04-05

WELLINGTON, Fla. — Here at WPTV, we are marking National News Literacy Week. It's a movement to push back against misinformation on all platforms.

A big part of that is social media, and WPTV is taking a closer look at how to keep our kids safe navigating it.

Navigating how to use social media safely and effectively isn't something many of us had to deal with growing up. But it's a reality for today's kids, and one Palm Beach County teacher said we better catch up with the times.

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"The power they hold now didn’t exist. And that holds awesome responsibilities and awesome consequences all at the same time," said Wellington Landings Middle School teacher Karen Epstein.

Epstein has watched the evolution of the internet throughout her teaching career. How to use it the right way is something she reinforces with her television production, audio-visual arts, and theater students.

"If the children aren’t educated in how to use the tool properly, that’s where harm can come in," Epstein said.

Epstein supports the idea of social media safety weaved into the curriculum.

"At the end of the day, this transcends politics. This is about our society. It's about our kids. It's about protecting them," said State Sen. Danny Burgess, R-Zephryhills.

Burgess has filed legislation to require that social media safety be taught in school. He wants the Florida Department of Education to come up with the specifics, post the details online, and potentially add the lessons to an already existing course.

RELATED: Florida lawmakers seek to require social media safety education in public schools

"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," Burgess said.

"We monitor, but don’t overstep our boundaries, because we know that can push them in the opposite direction," Palm Beach County parent Scott Borden said. "But we have our eyes on anything that can raise an eyebrow."

Borden, a dad of 12 and 13-year-old daughters, said his children's safety online is always on his mind.

"The only question I have, are our state government and school boards qualified to determine what is safe and what isn’t?" Borden said.

Epstein said the more resources students, teachers, and parents have at their fingertips, the better.

"Watching what you say. 'Is it good, is it kind, is it truthful?' is really the mantra you have to follow. And that’s an awesome responsibility for an 11, 12, 13-plus-year-old to have," Epstein said.

Burgess also filed the social media safety bill last year, but it failed after its first committee.