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Florida considers teaching risks, benefits of social media

The curriculum also would be made available to parents. It would also define social media in state law for the first time.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida schools could be required to teach students the benefits and risks of social media under a measure now before lawmakers.

A bill unanimously approved Tuesday by the Senate Education Committee calls for the state to develop a curriculum on social media literacy that districts would have to incorporate into existing courses. 

This bill would do three key things: require staff to provide instruction on social media literacy, define the term social media in state law for the first time, and require district school boards to make the material available online to parents. 

"The things that our kids are exposed to is troubling," Republican Sen. Danny Burgess, the bill’s sponsor, said in a statement AP reports. "Kids are losing their innocence more and more every day earlier because of the things you can just see by pulling it up online, even if they’re not looking for it."

Burgess continued that while social media is something parents should discuss with their children, many parents aren't familiar with the platforms children are using.

Democrats and Republicans alike shared a strong interest in the bill, SB 480, with Republican Sen. Jennifer Bradley encouraging Burgess, of Zephyrhills, to broaden the terms of the bill to include online activity. 

However, before the bill reaches the full Senate, it has two more committee stops. The Legislature will begin its annual 60-day session on Jan. 11.

If the bill passes and is signed into law, it would take effect next July.

Entrepreneur Brian Johnson built and sold two social media platforms before there was Facebook. He’s now involved in two others called Optimize and Heroic. He says most of us don’t appreciate what we’re facing right now. He recommends watching the documentary the “The Social Dilemma” to get a great understanding of the unintended consequences of having an attention economy.

"A big problem is that we think that Facebook and Instagram are the products. But they’re not. We’re the products, and our attention and our kids’ attention are they would say being hacked and mined and sold to the highest bidder. So, I think just understanding that is a really, really important first step," Johnson said.

He points out there are thousands of people behind every screen trying to get your attention.

“It’s not the technology that’s the issue per say, it’s when you take the technology which can be used unequivocally to do great good, but you’re running it through at attention economics model without the moral compass to make the right decisions. And again, the idea of moral bankruptcy, it’s again it’s concerning. But you can use that same technology for good, and I think that’s the challenge that we all have,” Johnson said.

Another thing that could potentially protect children online is new kid-friendly coding. Advocacy groups have launched a campaign called Designed with Kids in Mind. They're promoting this along with three bills in Congress to protect their privacy.  

You can watch the House Energy and Commerce Committee talk about accountability and big tech below.