Florida, California, and Others Take Action on Mandated Social Media Literacy for Youth

After a number of states explored restricting social media use for children, others have begun adding social media literacy programming in schools. 

Evidence of the connection between social media and the youth mental health crisis has been mounting and was recently covered on the Conduit Street blog. The previous article discussed legal challenges that surround the topic of protecting children from the ills of the internet. A new Route-Fifty article went on to detail the different strategies being employed to curb some of this impact.

Detrimental youth exposure to social media has been regarded as one of the most urgent and emerging public health concerns of the last two decades. With a connection to higher levels of depression, anxiety, and addiction, lawmakers around the country are taking turns trying to combat the repercussions of this exposure on developing minds. Florida lawmakers passed a recent mandate that students are to be instructed on the, “social, emotional, and physical effects,” of social media. This requirement is for students in grades 6 through 12. Topics covered include the negative effects on mental health generally in addition to categories such as addiction, misinformation, manipulation, information sharing, cyberbullying, and predatory behavior to name a few.

California, New Hampshire, and Virginia are close behind with similar programs. It is unclear yet whether states like Arkansas, Louisiana, and Utah, who have passed laws to restrict social media use, will look to mandate social media literacy as part of their public health strategy. A researcher from Kennesaw State University weighed-in:

“We can either teach kids, this is how you deal with it and put some guardrails in place, or we can take the other approach, which is to put your head in the sand, and say we’re going to try and block the bad world from getting to you,” said Andy Green, an assistant professor of information security and assurance at Kennesaw State University.

Two bills concerning children and data privacy on large social media platforms were considered during the most recent legislative session in Maryland but were unable to gain traction. Those were HB 901 and HB 254. Both of these bills focused attention on minors with social media profiles and the protection of their identifying information that could be shared or exploited.