Lawmakers in Florida have introduced legislation that bans the immensely popular social media app TikTok from K-12 schools amid concerns it poses a risk to students’ well-being and security.
In announcing support for two bills that would prohibit social media use at schools across the district, Jimmy Patronis, the chief financial officer of the Department of Financial Services, said TikTok and other social media apps are akin to “digital fentanyl” and are “addicting and useless” in helping further students’ education, according to FOX 13 Tampa Bay.
“Children are the future, so I’m not sure why we would ever allow something as addicting and useless as TikTok to be allowed in our K-12 institutions,” Patronis said in a statement. “So as schools are using more-and-more technology and parents are giving their children smartphones and other devices, Florida schools should take a hard stand that this isn’t an acceptable application to be used on school grounds.”
He also said TikTok “rots and robs” children of crucial social development opportunities.
Florida State Senator Danny Burgess, a Republican who introduced one of the bills, Senate Bill 52, echoed these sentiments, saying TikTok serves as a “distraction” to students’ learning.
“School is a place for learning, and I will fight to ensure it stays that way,” Burgess said in a statement. “Social media, including platforms like TikTok, are a distraction for our students and present real dangers that they may not be aware of.”
He added: “I’m looking forward to working with the CFO and my colleagues during the upcoming legislative session to protect our students.”
State Rep. Brad Yeager, also a Republican, proposed a corresponding bill in the Florida Legislature.
The bills target all social media apps and their respective websites, banning students from accessing them on school-provided internet throughout the state, FOX Tampa Bay reported.
It is not immediately clear if the students would be allowed to access the apps using their own phone data.
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TikTok’s data collection has prompted national security concerns as it is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese company that moved its headquarters to Singapore in 2020. Critics say the Chinese government could access user data, such as browsing history and location, as well as push communist propaganda through the app.
Former President Donald Trump attempted to ban the app, citing security and data collection issues, and President Biden later signed legislation passed by Congress prohibiting TikTok’s use on federal government devices.
The U.S. armed forces have also banned TikTok on military devices.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said TikTok is “basically a wholly owned subsidiary of the Communist Party of China” and called for it to be banned outright.
“It’s not about the content. It’s about how the data [that TikTok collects] is being used,” Rubio added during an interview with Fox News’s Tucker Carlson in Dec. 2022. “They’re a privacy danger to America and to our national security.
He added: “It’s about millions of 16-year-olds, 17-year-olds, 30-year-olds, people that are on there, dumping all kinds of data that the government of China gets access to; the location, the pictures, the texts, the consumer behavior [and] what the algorithm learns from you.”
A growing number of states, governed by Republicans and Democrats, have enacted partial or complete bans on TikTok.
These bans include government buildings and schools in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Maryland, Montana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Texas.