Fuentes, Diegnan & Vainieri Huttle Bill Providing Social Media Training for School Students Gets Assembly OK

Measure Comes in the Wake of Many High-Profile Tragedies Prompted by Social Media Use

Legislation sponsored by Assemblymen Angel Fuentes, Patrick J. Diegnan, Jr. and Valerie Vainieri Huttle to help educate New Jersey students on the responsible use of social media and the many pitfalls that come along with its use was approved 59-15-3 by the full Assembly on Monday.

“We’ve all made foolish mistakes as kids, but nowadays those decisions can be magnified tenfold by social media, creating many unfortunate consequences for children,” said Fuentes (D-Camden/Gloucester). “Everyday we see stories about youngsters facing legal repercussions, humiliation and tragically, even suicide, as a result of social media activity. Proper education will hopefully help open students eyes to these consequences so they do not end up as the next unfortunate headline.”

The sponsors underscored the importance of the legislation in the wake of many high-profile tragedies prompted by social media use, including the suicide of Rutgers student Tyler Clementi and two high-profile rape cases in California and Ohio, which resulted in one suicide.

“The advent of social media has made it a far more complicated and different world for adolescents growing up today than it was for their parents,” said Diegnan (D-Middlesex). “Whether it’s adolescent impulsiveness or something more dangerous like bullying and harassment, it bears far more serious consequences when carried out over social media. It’s important that we educate students early about the proper way to go about using these platforms.”

The bill (A-3292) would require school districts to provide instruction on the responsible use of social media as part of the district’s implementation of the Core Curriculum Content Standards in Technology.

“Social media is powering the world today and can affect college prospects, job opportunities and much more,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “It’s important that we teach kids at an early age to use these tools responsibly so they don’t make any foolish mistakes that could derail their lives before they even get started.”

The instruction will provide students in grades 6 – 8 with information on the purpose and acceptable use of various social media platforms; social media behavior that ensures cyber safety, cyber security, and cyber ethics; and potential negative consequences, including cyber bullying, of failing to use various social media platforms responsibly.

Under the bill, the Commissioner of Education would be required to provide school districts with sample learning activities and resources designed to promote the responsible use of social media.

The measure now heads to the Senate for consideration.