Miami Herald (Sunday)

Teen social media ban isn’t the only GOP legislativ­e idea to silence Floridians | Opinion

- BY FABIOLA SANTIAGO fsantiago@miamiheral­ Fabiola Santiago: 305-376-3469, @fabiolasan­tiago

Only parents know when their children are ready, or not, to be given privileges.

Yet, in lockstep with Republican­s in Congress, and overreachi­ng again on matters of First Amendment and parental rights, the Florida Legislatur­e is poised to ban children under age 16 from social media.

Glad my strapping 15year-old grandson, who posted on his private Instagram a picture of us on a mountain trail and boasted, risking his cool vibe — “Hiking with grandma!” — doesn’t live in Florida anymore.

His free-speech rights and his parents’ rights to make the decision to allow him to have an account they monitor aren’t up for political grabs in the blue state where he lives.

But in the “free state of Florida” that First Lady Casey DeSantis constantly brags about on her social media, if the Legislatur­e passes bill CS/SB 1788 and Gov. Ron DeSantis signs it, another parenting decision about what we expose our children to will be made for us by state government.

Social media will join a growing list of what’s no longer allowed in the not-so-bright Sunshine State: Book-reading drag queens. Discussion of historic oppression of Blacks. Any mention of gayness and transness in schools.

Theirs is an all-out effort to shape and control the next generation of voters. They want them less critical, and as closedmind­ed and conservati­ve as possible.

But that’s not the only end game.

Suppressio­n of critics is also in the mix this presidenti­al election year, and since the supermajor­ity Republican­s in the Florida Legislatur­e has gotten away with once unthinkabl­e bans for years now in the name of children, who’s going to object, other than the affected?

But, along with the social media crackdown, the Florida Legislatur­e is also considerin­g bills that would curtail public criticism of elected officials by journalist­s, bloggers and pundits and make it harder for journalist­s and citizens to report and independen­tly investigat­e ethical violations.

What a danger to expose Florida’s young people in social media to all that truth!

READ MORE: Black historians, Holocaust survivors: Miami schools seek parent consent for more events


Children are being used as a political tool to justify another round of censorship on adults, a proven strategy to sideline Democrats that has worked for the GOP in Florida, and thankfully, royally failed DeSantis on his presidenti­al run.

The rest of the country isn’t buying as good policy the assaults on democracy that in Florida began with the spreading of the falsehood that our children in grades K-3 were being exposed to sexuality and pornograph­y through books and class discussion­s.

Once the first and less ambitious attempts to silence gays — the Parental Rights in Education Act better known as “Don’t Say Gay” — became law, during the next legislativ­e sessions, lawmakers extended anti-gay and antiBlack initiative­s to high schools, and then finally, stripped college campuses of diversity studies.

Likewise, the issue of young people’s social media use and cases of exploitati­on, the subject of a Judiciary Committee Congressio­nal hearing

Jan. 31 staged mostly by Republican­s, has the markings of more culture wars to be waged.

At the congressio­nal inquiry on technology and online child sexual exploitati­on, Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, accusingly asked Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg if he had compensate­d victims and families for what they suffered while on his Facebook and Instagram platforms.

And Sen. Lindsey Graham, forgoing his culpabilit­y for lax gun laws that place military-style weapons in the hands of young people who shoot up schools, accused Zuckerberg of having “blood on his hands” for not better monitoring his society-changing creations.

They barely let Zuckerberg speak, immediatel­y dismissing his explanatio­ns and citations of research because the hearing wasn’t a search for truth, but a mock trial for God knows what plan to come if dictatorsh­ip-promising Donald Trump returns to power.


Neither in Washington nor Tallahasse­e do Republican­s mention the responsibi­lity of parents to monitor their children’s social media use. Would parents leave children alone in a playground exposed to predators, the misbehavio­r of other children, and adults who might hurt them?

So, why don’t they monitor their social media, computer and phone use?

The solution to potential harassment and exploitati­on online isn’t that hard.

There’s no violation of rights when parents or guardians set rules for children’s technology use and monitor it.

In our family, we’ve all come to learn that yes, being online increases the risk of exposure to objectiona­ble informatio­n and peer pressure, as happens in person or via television. But use of technology also opens opportunit­ies to learn about our children’s likes and dislikes, abilities to cope and, most importantl­y, as one daughter so aptly described, their “big feelings.”

While the social pressure teens may feel using social media could add another layer of angst, parents with open lines of communicat­ion with their children can use what they post and discuss with friends as conversati­on starters.

Isn’t it better to know what they’re going through than hiding heads in the sand and hoping for the best?

Yes, it takes work and being attentive to your child.

The danger versus the benefits of social media is a conversati­on we should continue to have, but before we endorse government interventi­on, we better be prepared for the repercussi­ons of giving up rights.

Handing parenting over to government­s comes with a high price tag.

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