The New Jersey state Senate passed a bill on Thursday that would require schools to include instruction for students on how to use social media responsibly.

From the Star-Ledger:

Middle school students would get a mandatory course on how to use social media responsibly under a bill passed by the state Senate today.

The bill (A3292), which passed 37-2, would require school districts to instruct sixth through eighth graders on “cyber safety, cyber security, and cyber ethics” on social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Kids would also be taught about the consequences of online bullying and other bad behaviors.

The bill specifies that it will be the responsibility of the Commissioner of Education to provide “sample learning activities and resources designed to promote the responsible use of social media.”  The instruction would be incorporated into the technology education curriculum.

The Senate bill contained amendments, so it will return first to the assembly – where it was initially introduced and passed last year – before going to the Governor to sign.

With the growth of social media over the last several years, schools have been faced with a variety of related issues when it comes to how students use social media.  There is often discussion about whether or not schools should play a role in this area, and if it should be left to parents to take responsibility for such matters.  But as social media related issues seem to be spilling over into schools these days, it seemed inevitable that more schools would be addressing the matter in some way or another.  Whether or not legislating it into school curriculum is the answer is its own discussion, I suppose.

Nonetheless, schools and states have been responding in different ways.

Some schools have participated in workshops or assemblies in cooperation with outside programs to help educate students and parents.  Others have implemented programs aimed at monitoring students’ use of social media, a practice that has also sparked much controversy.

In 2012, NY passed a law intended to help protect students from cyberbullying; the law focuses primarily on prevention and on training for teachers and administrators in schools.  This also comes with its own complexities, as it can be difficult to define exactly what constitutes cyberbullying.

In a lighter example, more recently, one teacher in Tennessee conducted her own social media safety lesson when she sought to teach her students how quickly a photo can be seen by many people online.  While that experiment certainly served its purpose, it probably wasn’t exactly what the teacher had expected when the photo she posted went as viral as it did (and also went through several creative iterations).

The NJ bill seems indicative of the broader discussion at hand, and prompts questions about how to navigate the challenges of social media and its impact on students in today’s culture.