When the academic year begins on August 10, students in Palm Beach County will notice that they can no longer access TikTok on their school-provided computers or devices.
This change is due to a recently enacted law that prohibits the use of the popular short video-sharing app on all devices owned by the state. Additionally, the law prohibits school districts from utilizing TikTok to promote school activities.
Governor Ron DeSantis signed this ban into law in May, stating his intention to keep the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) out of the Sunshine State.
TikTok, which is owned by the Beijing-based technology company ByteDance, boasts over 150 million users in the United States. Concerns from DeSantis and other government officials stem from worries that the Chinese government may compel the company to surrender American users’ data.
In response to these concerns, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning stated in March that the Chinese government has never requested companies to collect or provide data, information, or intelligence from foreign countries.
Furthermore, she emphasized that the United States has not presented any evidence to substantiate the claim that TikTok poses a threat to national security, as reported by The Associated Press.
TikTok users, especially students in pre-K through eighth grade in Florida who are prohibited from discussing gender identity or sexual orientation in the classroom, defend the app as a space for self-expression, self-discovery, and connection with the LGBTQ+ community.
A Pew Research Center study revealed that in the previous year, 33% of TikTok users obtained their news from the platform, an increase from 22% in 2020.
However, TikTok has generated controversy among school administrators. Certain viral TikTok challenges have resulted in instances of school property vandalism, and the platform has been associated with the spread of shooting threats targeting schools.
Heather Frederick, the Chief Finance Officer of Palm Beach County Schools, mentioned that the school district can easily block apps on school devices. Currently, the district’s Wi-Fi networks already block access to Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
Despite these restrictions, students have found ways to bypass the school Wi-Fi by using their personal data to access social media sites on their own devices.
However, Frank Barbieri, the school board Chairman, cautioned Superintendent Mike Burke about the possibility of catching parents off guard with the TikTok ban.
He recommended that the communications department proactively inform parents before they inundate the board with complaints about their children being unable to access TikTok.
Considering the high number of students in the district, with approximately 180,000 students, Barbieri estimated that around 179,000 of them likely use TikTok, necessitating preparedness from the school board.