Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill that will allow teachers to limit the use of social media and cell phone devices by students in the classroom.
“It gives teachers the authority to establish classroom rules on cell phone and device use during instructional time,” DeSantis said at a signing ceremony Tuesday, adding that teachers could still allow students to check their phones before class, according to Fox News.
The law also requires instruction for internet safety to older students, prohibits social media use while using district internet resources, and bans TikTok from school devices, said local WPTV NBC News 5.
“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 told WPTV.
As to internet safety, the instruction would help students understand the long-term consequences of what they do on social media.
“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,” said Tammy Fields, director of the Palm Beach County Youth Services, according to WPTV. “It makes sense that kids are not on their phones while they’re in the classroom.”
“There’s no way you’re learning what you need to be learning [when distracted by cell phone use]. And things like social media, it can wait,” the governor said. “Honestly, it is not that important to be doing. We think that is just common sense.”
Florida’s overall rankings in test scores for K-12 improved compared to the rest of the nation, but still saw a significant drop because of COVID-19-related lockdowns of schools.
“We knew there would be widespread harm to our students if students were locked out,” DeSantis said, according to a release from the state Department of Education (DOE) when the test scores were announced in October. “Today’s results once again prove that we made the right decision.”
Under DeSantis, Florida has been reprioritizing academics in education and restricting content deemed inappropriate by many parents.
Previous legislation signed by the governor includes laws that would ban instruction on sex and gender identity and eliminate other sexually explicit material from school classrooms and libraries.