TRENTON – A state Senate committee approved Democrat-sponsored legislation that would require school districts to help educate New Jersey students on the responsible use of social media and the many pitfalls that come along with its use was approved Thursday. The full Assembly passed the bill by a 59-15-3-3 vote in May.
“We’ve all made foolish mistakes as kids, but nowadays those decisions can be magnified tenfold by social media, creating many unfortunate consequences for children,” said Assemblyman Angel Fuentes (D-Camden/Gloucester). “Everyday we see stories about youngsters facing legal repercussions, humiliation and tragically, even suicide, as a result of social media activity. Proper education will hopefully help open students eyes to these consequences so they do not end up as the next unfortunate headline.”
The sponsors underscored the importance of the legislation in the wake of many high-profile tragedies prompted by social media use, including the suicide of Rutgers student Tyler Clementi and two high-profile rape cases in California and Ohio, which resulted in one suicide.
“The advent of social media has made it a far more complicated and different world for adolescents growing up today than it was for their parents,” said Assemblyman Patrick J. Diegnan, Jr. (D-Middlesex). “Whether it’s adolescent impulsiveness or something more dangerous like bullying and harassment, it bears far more serious consequences when carried out over social media. It’s important that we educate students early about the proper way to go about using these platforms.”
The bill (A-3292) would require school districts to provide instruction on the responsible use of social media as part of the district’s implementation of the Core Curriculum Content Standards in Technology.
“Social media is powering the world today and can affect college prospects, job opportunities and much more,” said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “It’s important that we teach kids at an early age to use these tools responsibly so they don’t make any foolish mistakes that could derail their lives before they even get started.”
“Social media has become such a part of our daily routine that many people, especially young people, fail to recognize just how detrimental it can be when used inappropriately,” said Assemblyman Herb Conaway. Jr., M.D. (D-Burlington). “Internet technology and social media expose children to a great many age-inappropriate concepts. All must be done to provide parents and schools with the tools to enable them to protect our precious children.”
The instruction will provide students in grades 6 – 8 with information on the purpose and acceptable use of various social media platforms; social media behavior that ensures cyber safety, cyber security, and cyber ethics; and potential negative consequences of failing to use various social media platforms responsibly, including cyber bullying.
Under the bill, the Commissioner of Education would be required to provide school districts with sample learning activities and resources designed to promote the responsible use of social media.
The measure was released by the Senate Education Committee and now heads to the full Senate for further consideration.
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