By Louise E. Weber, MLN Research Manager

New Jersey lawmakers have recognized the “potential negative consequences that the Internet and social media can have on the physical and emotional health of students,” with the introduction of Assembly Bill 4863.

New Jersey’s bill would require school districts to develop a resource guide for students and parents on how to best participate in digital learning, and also acknowledges the reality of negative behavior that can result from that digital learning environment.

Many studies suggest connections between use of social media and mental health issues such as depression, changes in self-esteem, and internet addiction. New Jersey legislators sponsoring the bill recognize that students participating in virtual or remote learning will likely encounter more challenges and potential roadblocks than a student in a more predictable scenario of traditional in-classroom instruction.

The New Jersey resource guide model would be both practical and cautionary. In addition to presenting “potential negative consequences that the internet and social media can have,” the guide would also provide information on basic computer literacy (word processing, internet navigation, use of email).

This is not the first time that New Jersey has acknowledged the impact of social media. In 2014, New Jersey passed a law requiring schools to teach safe and ethical use of social media.

A virtual instruction resource guide, such as that proposed in Assembly Bill 4863, could have a far-reaching impact with the potential to not only be beneficial today, but also encourage more flexible and responsive support for students and parents facing future crises.

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