TALLAHASSEE (CBS Miami)
Florida lawmakers gathered Tuesday in Tallahassee to advocate for House Bill 591, legislation that aims to protect juveniles from falling victim to cyberbullying and sex trafficking.
Citing a rise in the number of minors suffering from anxiety and depression, State Rep. Michele Rayner-Goolsby, Rep. Tyler Sirois and State Sen. Shevrin Jones sponsored the bill to protect the youth from online harassment.
Jena McClure, a mother of three, said she supports the implementation of this bill after witnessing her children and their friends fall victim to cyberbullying. She said it often happens to children everywhere.
According to Pew Research, social media is being consumed at an all-time high.
The group’s data found that 95% of teens use YouTube while 67% are on TikTok and 32% are on Facebook, and even fewer are on other platforms.
With exposure to those mediums comes more opportunities for minors to post videos showing moments of students being bullied and even sometimes attacked.
CBS 4 has reported on several fights that were caught on camera as students were attacked while on the school bus.
In New Jersey, a 14-year-old committed suicide after she was jumped, and the video recording was posted to TikTok.
For McClure, all of it is hard to watch.
“My heart aches for those kids that are in the middle of the fight, and I think about the kids that are filming. Where’s their heart?” she said. “You know, what’re they thinking? Instead of going getting help, or stopping it, they’re filming it because putting that on social media is going to make them cool.”
HB 591 would require disclaimers, content moderation features and regulation by the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
It would also stop state schools from requiring the use of social media for instruction, and there would be fines for social media platforms found non-compliant.
“It also prohibits social media platforms that fail to meet requirements from accepting new accounts from minors,” Jones said.
Jones and McClure believe it’s up to the adults to help protect children’s mental health. This bill, they believe, is a start.
“We have to stand guard and protect our children because as innocent as social media was created to be, the individuals that are on social media are not that innocent,” Jones said.
If this bill passes as its written, it will go into effect on July 1. At this time, it’s unclear how much money it would take to implement the bill. However, Jones says they’re waiting on a financial analysis, but the burden would either be on the state or the individual social media platforms.