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Florida Lawmakers Continue Moving to Limit Youth Social Media

During a recent class discussion in River Ridge High School’s New Teacher Academy, however, students suggested that the adult decision-makers have some misplaced priorities.

(TNS) — Florida lawmakers are moving full speed ahead to push minors off social media. They’ve empowered schools to ban cellphones, remove books and limit history lessons, with more restrictions on the way.

One group of constituents is watching closely — the kids.

During a recent class discussion in River Ridge High School’s New Teacher Academy, students suggested the adult decision-makers have some misplaced priorities.

“They’re trying to make decisions that they think are best for us,” senior Aimee Haggerty said. “But they don’t actually see what goes on in our classrooms and what kinds of things we’re experiencing.”

The debate over social media and cellphones was a primary example.

First, the students argued, the problem is one that the adults created.

“I feel like they’ve kind of programmed us in these generations to be like, that’s our source of everyone’s information communication,” junior Kate Goldstein said. “And I don’t know, I feel like limiting that would be a whole new learning curve for all of us.”

It’s also one that might have some benefits, they acknowledged.

“I agree with some of the cellphone restrictions in school,” sophomore Brooke Bloomer said. “I think it has been beneficial for kids to not always be on their phone.” They might be more productive, she said.

But bans on these forms of technology come with a downside, the students argued.

Sophomore Brayden Kyle said he uses social media for interactions that help him in school and life.

“I just feel like it’s a way for me to connect with people like my friends and stuff,” Kyle said. “And like, I’m in this class with all these people, and they’re all older than me. But on social media I follow a lot of them and interact with a lot of them. And I feel like if they just took it away, it would take away that.”

The students mentioned how their school provides information about activities on social media, and teachers make assignments that require access to technology, including phones.

Senior Fernando Villatta said he and others take dual enrollment classes from Pasco-Hernando State College, and without phones they might miss important messages from instructors.

“I have had moments where teachers have been trying to communicate with me, because I get notifications on my phone,” Villatta said. “It’s quicker than just trying to check my email every like five minutes. So I believe in that form of communication.”

The students had similarly dim views of other types of prohibitions that have been imposed on schools and students, such as the removal of lessons about race and gender, and the pressure to restrict books because of their content.

For one thing, Bloomer said, the attempts to ban ideas are likely to have the opposite effect.

“It’s honestly kind of human nature to want to do something if you’re told not to,” Bloomer said. “So I think with this, they’re trying to definitely control what we’re knowing.”

She and others didn’t appreciate being limited at a time when they’re trying to figure out their future.

“I feel like by limiting what we learn and limiting opportunities, we’re just kind of dumbing down these students,” junior Riley Thompson said. “And I feel like education and being in high school is all about finding out what you want to do, what you want to be and having those opportunities that you’ll never have again — especially when you’re in a learning environment where it’s free and you don’t have to pay for classes.”

Junior Angelina Comiskey worried that, when she leaves high school, she might find out just how far behind she has fallen.

“I think when we’re like banning stuff, I feel like it leaves out large gaps in between just learning in general,” she said. “And you get to a point and you’re just like, ‘OK, how did we get here?’ And I just feel like a bunch of stuff is missing.”

It seems that some adults are identifying problems that students don’t consider issues at all, and it often has little to do with the children’s needs, Goldstein said. As an example, she pointed to the confusion last year over whether schools could offer Advanced Placement psychology.

“It was more of what they thought was appropriate for, you know, whatever standards they’re being held to,” she said. “They want to avoid conflict as much as possible when it comes to parents having issues and stuff. But at the end of the day, these are kids who are either going to go that path or not. So I think it’s more important to have the students’ interest in mind because, you know, that’s their future.”

The class didn’t see value in blaming teachers, who have been accused of trying to indoctrinate students to a particular point of view.

“Personally, I’ve never had a teacher who is trying to enforce whether it’s political or like just any personal beliefs,” Thompson said. “There will be times where, obviously in history, like it comes up, you know, you’re going to talk about politics. But I think it’s just a matter of professionalism from the teacher, and knowing what you can say and what you can’t say, and no matter what you believe.”

Relying on parents exerting their rights to control children’s education isn’t necessarily always the best answer, either, the students added.

”As time has gone on, people have kind of pushed that into, ‘Oh, well, that’s your parents’ responsibility. That’s for you to learn at home. That’s for you to learn just throughout your life,’” Haggerty said. “But some people don’t have parents at home to teach them.”

She suggested that those in power should listen to Florida’s youth more closely when discussing such important issues.

“They want somebody to blame for … the way that we perceive something, the way that we think about something,” she said. “They want to blame the administration and the teachers that we’re with all the time, without realizing that we are our own independent people.”

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