Social Media Classes For Middle Schoolers, NJ Lawmaker Sponsors Bill

12:59 PM, Jun 11, 2013   |    comments
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New Jersey-- Assemblyman Angel Fuentes is moving ahead with legislation to provide New Jersey school students with social media education, but details of both curriculum and funding source remain scarce.

The legislation, now in a Senate committee, would mandate that the state's sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders receive instruction on the responsible use of social media.

Fuentes, D-Camden, said the measure would help crack down on the misuse of social media and cyberbullying among young teenagers on platforms such as Facebook.

"I have a 13-year-old daughter and she has my permission to use Facebook, but I'm always monitoring it," Fuentes said Thursday.

"But I've begun to notice all of the drama going on between her (online) friends. Children need to understand that there are benefits, but also negative consequences in social media.

"We need to show them how it can really hurt somebody. Relationships can be destroyed."

Cherry Hill schools spokeswoman Susan Bastnagel said that while the district doesn't have social media instruction in place, its middle-schoolers already are taught the core values that discourage cyberbullying and inappropriate Internet behavior.

"Our children know that if bullying is wrong in the playground and on the bus, then it's wrong online, too," Bastnagel added.

"The question is whether or not these lessons would be aligned with what we already do. Where would it fit into the curriculum and would it be another unfunded mandate?"

Fuentes didn't go into detail on how schools would pay for or schedule the added lessons.

"It's going to require some funds, but I don't have exact numbers," Fuentes said.

Mike Yaple, a spokesman for the New Jersey School Boards Association, said there have not yet been indicators that school districts would be affected financially by the measure. If the legislation is enacted, lessons on social media would be incorporated into each school's core technology curriculum, but it's unclear how many hours a year that would require.

"Yes, the typical school schedule in the state is already jam-packed," Yaple said. "But then again, this is an extremely worthwhile issue."

The bill also would call on the state's education commissioner to design sample activities and provide schools with resources on acceptable social media usage.

"We do support this legislation and think it would dovetail nicely with all of our efforts to address cyberbullying," Yaple said. "There's so much concern these days about how children are affected by social media, so we think this is a very proactive measure."

The bill was passed by the Assembly in May and referred to the Senate Education Committee.

"We can't monitor our children 24 hours a day, but I think this would be extra help," Fuentes said. "It could save kids from a lot of embarrassment and humiliation and, God forbid, even suicide."

Source: Courier-Post, Gannett News Service

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