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By now, you’ve probably heard a litany of all the reasons why social media is harming our kids. It’s making them anxious and depressed. It’s causing internet addiction. And it’s resulting in problems such as online bullying. Given all that, it’s easy to see why some political leaders are now attempting to ban social media usage in our schools.
The latest attempt to shield kids from the potentially harmful effects of social media is known as “The Eyes on the Board Act.” Simply stated, as a result of this legislation, schools that rely on federal subsidies for high-speed internet access will be forced to cut off social media access on any networks or devices being subsidized during regular school hours. The goal of the act, as you might have figured out from its name, is to keep kids focused on what’s being presented to them on the chalkboard, rather than on their tiny screens.
While the act is sure to be controversial – at least, among teenage Instagram and TIkTok users – it serves a useful purpose. Just about everyone can agree that kids should be focused on their learning, and not on their social media feeds, during school hours. The legislation does not apply to time spent outside of school, so it’s not like it’s depriving kids of social media entirely. As soon as they get home, they can fire up their phones and get busy on social media. It’s up to parents to make sure that kids are getting their homework done and getting to bed on time.
Moreover, taking a big picture view, the proposed act is not radically different from the current measures in place. In exchange for generous funding, schools already have to have in place an internet safety policy, and they already have to take measures to ensure that kids aren’t being exposed to internet porn, or other harmful or obscene material. So you can think of “The Eyes on the Board Act” as being just another logical step that schools must take to protect kids.
One problem, however, is that the legislation comes with a bit of political baggage. The chief sponsor of the act is Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a highly polarizing political figure. If you’re a left-leaning liberal, this legislation might trigger you as soon as you hear his name. Add in the fact that the act will primarily impact poor urban and rural schools (i.e. the very schools that depend on federal subsidies), and it’s easy to see how it could lead to some very uncomfortable discussions about race and class. You can already guess the type of argument likely to appear on CNN: “Why should rich white kids in suburban high schools get access to social media, while poor kids in urban high schools get deprived?”
Moreover, there’s an argument to be made that shutting off networks and devices during regular school hours might actually impair learning. Let’s face it, social media is a part of our lives now, and kids are using it in creative ways these days to understand complex issues. From this perspective, teachers and professors need to find a way to integrate technology into the modern classroom experience, rather than going for the most radical response possible, which is simply to ban everything.
At the end of the day, I have to side with the sponsors of the act. This is actually a great idea. Let students come up with original thoughts. They shouldn’t be relying on phones for answers. And they certainly shouldn’t be zoning out during important classroom discussions by spending time on social media platforms like TikTok. Every piece of legislation has its pros and cons, but there’s clearly a lot of value to be gained from requiring kids to turn off their devices during regular classroom hours.