A Missouri lawmaker wants to block social media at schools. He also wants to ensure all students understand internet safety, but his colleagues aren’t so sure those are good ideas.

Holts Summit Republican Sen. Travis Fitzwater’s Senate Bill 976 would block student access to social media platforms without an educational purpose for grades 6-12 , and create a model curriculum to teach social media safety, the Springfield News-Leader reports.

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“There is a kind of tendency to swing this pendulum towards regulating tech companies … but I think what’s maybe more impactful is just giving kids information, giving them training, giving them an understanding of the of the ins and outs of social media at an earlier age, putting it in front of them because it is so prevalent,” Fitzwater told Select Committee on Empowering Missouri Parents and Children.

The intent, he said, is to have a real conversation with students about “what is going on with social media and how it’s impacting them.”

Several Democrats on the committee raised issues with the bill, with some suggesting it goes too far, and others claiming that it doesn’t do enough.

Affton Democratic Sen. Doug Beck noted that as a school board member his district has already developed policies on student internet use, and suggested a ban on social media use in schools statewide could lead to unintended consequences.

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“I’ve always been the person that wants to say ‘Let’s leave it open and then close it down as you need to,’” he said. “I like the media literacy, I like some of the things (in SB 976), but I’m not sure about the ‘shalls’ at the end.”

“You’re … taking away the ability of the school board to be able to decide on their internet policy,” Beck said.

Sen. Lauren Arthur, D-Kansas City, argued the opposite, suggesting a complete ban on social media without exceptions may be better because there’s likely no real reason a teacher would need to allow students to use social media for class lessons.

“I actually take a more restrictive view,” she said. “I think social media has done a lot of harm to kids, and we haven’t even fully realized the impact that it will have on our society.”

“I know teachers are very creative and that is probably a great way to engage students, based on their interests,” Arthur said. “But I’m trying to imagine a lesson that would … be appropriate that would involve social media.”

Fitzwater told the select committee he’s open to amending the bill, which also creates a STEM Career Awareness Activity Fund to encourage school districts to help students explore jobs in STEM fields.

The legislation in Missouri comes as states across the country struggle to combat the negative impacts of social media on youth in a variety of ways, from laws requiring parental approval to access sites to those that ban cell phone use in schools entirely during instructional time.

Earlier this month, a federal judge in Ohio sided with the tech industry trade group NetChoice’s argument that the Social Media Parental Notification Act approved by the legislature in July violates minors’ free speech rights, WBNS reports.

Chief U.S. District Judge Alenon Marbley’s ruling extended a preliminary injunction issued in January that blocked the law from taking effect on Jan. 15. The bill would have required companies like TikTok, Snapchat, Meta, X, YouTube and others to gain parental consent before a minor could set up an account.

NetChoice has won similar lawsuits against laws enacted in Arkansas and California, and is challenging restrictions in Utah, as well, The New York Post reports.

Meanwhile, teachers across Florida are speaking out about the drastic improvement in the classroom from a new state law approved by lawmakers last year that prohibits student phone use during instructional time.

“The learning change in the classroom is remarkable. Students are engaged because they’re not getting notifications in their pocket,” Sarah Speight, a Boone High School ninth-grade English teacher, told the Orlando Sentinel.

“I don’t know … what went into making up that rule, but I can tell you that the result of it on a very wide scale has been extraordinarily positive for (students’) mental health from an anecdotal perspective,” Edgewater High School Principal Heather Kreider told Education Week.

A recent study from Common Sense Media examining smartphone data of 200 students found 97% of 11- to 17-year-olds use their phones during the school day, with the amount of in-school screen time ranging from less than a minute to 6.5 hours, with a median time of 43 minutes.

The study found students picked up their phones a media of 51 times per day, though pickup amounts ranged from two to 498 times per day, K-12 Dive reports. Data from the National Center for Education Statistics shows 91% of schools banned nonacademic use of phones during the 2009-10 school year, a figure that declined to 66% by 2015-16, before rebounding to 77% in 2019-20, according to the news site.