WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator John Fetterman (D-Pa.) today announced his support for legislation to limit children’s access to social media at school.The Eyes on the Board Act, which U.S. Senate Commerce Committee Ranking Member Ted Cruz (R-Texas) introduced in October 2023, would require schools receiving federal broadband funding through the E-Rate program to block access on subsidized services, devices, and networks.
“I’m proud to join Sen. Fetterman in leading this bipartisan effort to protect kids in the classroom and give parents information with the transparency needed to know that their children are safe,”said Sen. Cruz. “Addictive and distracting social media apps are wreaking havoc on our kids—the very least we can do is restrict access to social media at school so taxpayer subsidies aren’t complicit in harming students.”
“Social media is a powerful tool, but spending too much time on it can significantly hurt anybody’s well-being,” said Sen. Fetterman.“It even contributed to my own mental health struggles. Cyberbullying and online harassment are real. We need to make sure that at school, our children are focused on learning, and E-rate will do just that.”
While existing law requires schools collecting E-Rate subsidies to certify that software is in place blocking or filtering access to obscenity, child pornography, and other harmful sexual content, there is currently no provision requiring schools to block access to distracting and addictive social media apps or websites. As a result, the E-Rate program risks exacerbating the youth mental health crisis by enabling access to social media during the school day.
The Eyes on the Board Act would:
- Limit kids’ use of distracting and addictive social media apps or websites at school by prohibiting schools or school districts from receiving E-Rate or Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) subsidies unless they prohibit access to social media on subsidized services, devices, and networks;
- Promote parental limits and transparency on screen time in schools by requiring schools receiving E-Rate subsidies to adopt a screen time policy as a condition of receiving federal funding;
- This requirement would be similar to schools’ existing obligations to maintain an “internet safety policy” under the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), which prevents schools from receiving E-Rate funding unless they have certified that they have an internet safety policy that includes technology protection measures to block or filter obscenity, pornography, or other harmful sexual content.
- Provide parents and the public with needed transparency by requiring the FCC to create a database of schools’ internet safety policies.
- The FCC does not currently collect these plans, and they are not publicly available, so it’s unclear what steps E-Rate-funded schools are taking to protect children online.
The Eyes on the Board Act is co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Ted Budd (R-N.C.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and has strong support from numerous stakeholders. Click HERE to read the statements of support.
- Established to subsidize broadband connectivity in schools and libraries throughout the country, E-Rate is one of four programs under FCC’s Universal Service Fund (USF), which is funded through taxes on consumers’ phone bills.
- On June 26, 2023, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel launched an initiative to expand the E-Rate program to install Wi-Fi hotspots off campus, including on school buses and in students’ and library patrons’ homes.