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So far, DeSantis isn’t saying whether he’ll veto social media ban for younger teens

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So far, DeSantis isn’t saying whether he’ll veto social media ban for younger teens

Feb 28, 2024 | 2:28 pm ET
By Michael Moline
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So far, DeSantis isn’t saying whether he’ll veto social media ban for younger teens
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An empty class at Coral Glades High School, Tamarac, Florida. (Photo by Dan Forer/GettyImages)

With Tallahassee’s political class in a tizzy over whether Gov. Ron DeSantis will veto House Speaker Paul Renner’s cherished social media ban for under-16-year-olds, the governor decamped to Naples to deliver a speech to a homeschool academy.

The legislation (HB 1), which cleared the Legislature last Thursday, would forbid social media platforms to allow younger teenagers to participate unless the platforms abandon the “engagement” tools, including algorithms, that keep users scrolling away.

DeSantis has consistently emphasized that he wants parents to control whether their children use these platforms.

But he didn’t bring up the subject during a 20-minute talk to students and others at the Freedom Institute of Collier County, or during a subsequent Q&A with Tom Grady, a board member who sat on the Florida Board of Education between 2015 and last year. The Institute provides instruction to homeschool students.

The governor did cite his support for parental rights, however, including financial support for as many as 600,000 students enrolled in private, public, and homeschools.

“Parents in Florida have a right to know what’s being taught, what materials are being used in their kids’ schools. Why would you oppose that? There’s no reason to oppose that. And parents have utilized those resources and those reforms to blow the whistle on some things that were wholly inappropriate to be in schools,” DeSantis said.

He also discussed alternatives to formal postsecondary education including workforce training in skills such as truck driving and welding that can lead to comfortable careers.

Grady asked the governor to respond to tech billionaire Peter Thiel’s program offering young people $100,000 to skip college in favor of founding companies or nonprofits.

DeSantis — who holds an undergrad degree from Yale and a degree from Harvard Law — observed that college dropouts including Bill Gates have achieved major success.

“That may be the right path to do that for some students; I think others could benefit from going to higher education. So, I think it’s probably circumstances-dependent,” he said.

“You know, one thing you will get if you go to a university is you will develop friendships and make relationships — that does help. I mean, we’re human beings. I mean, if you know somebody down the line, that just makes a difference,” DeSantis continued.

Of MBA programs, “I don’t know if they’re teaching you anything that’s really important, but I think it’s mostly just the networking there for two years. That’s what people do.”