First Lady Melania Trump is encouraging adults to listen to children about cyberbullying, an important aspect of her “Be Best” campaign that seeks to improve the social, emotional, and physical well-being of children.
“We share one goal–to pave a smooth way forward for our children, our next generation,” she told a group comprising social-media companies, federal agencies, educational organizations, youth programs, and law enforcement officials at the Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention summit on Aug. 20 in Rockville, Maryland.
FLOTUS launched the Be Best campaign in May, following a tradition of first ladies taking on a cause during their time in the White House. One of the issues she is focused on is cyberbullying, along with how children can engage in social media in healthy ways.
As an example of what can be done to help tackle this widespread issue, she pointed to an initiative by Microsoft called the Council for Digital Good, whose participants she recently met. The council brings together 15 teens from around the country to improve “online safety and promote digital civility around the world,” according to Microsoft.
The first lady said she was impressed by the projects they were working on, and the students’ “sincere commitment to reducing peer-to-peer bullying through kindness and open communication.”
She encouraged technology and social-media companies, of which Twitter, Google, and Facebook were present, to establish similar initiatives.
She also encouraged adults to listen to children about online issues to help them better navigate the web, saying it “can be used in many positive ways, but can also be destructive and harmful when used incorrectly.”
“Let’s face it, most children are more aware of the benefits and pitfalls of social media than some adults, but we still need to do all we can to provide them with information and tools for successful and safe online habits,” she said. “By listening to children’s ideas and concerns, I believe adults will be better able to help them navigate this often-difficult topic.”
Because President Donald Trump has used Twitter to call out his opponents in sometimes unvarnished language, the first lady has faced criticism for her decision to focus on cyberbullying. But she has said in the past that she will not be deterred by the criticism and will continue to do “what I know is right.”
In response to a question on tweets that the president put out during the conference, the first lady’s communications director issued the following statement:
“The First Lady’s presence at events such as today’s cyberbullying summit elevates an issue that is important to children and families across this country. She is aware of the criticism but it will not deter her from doing what she feels is right. The President is proud of her commitment to children and encourages her in all that she does.”
Shortly after she announced her Be Best campaign, Melania Trump underwent surgery for what was described as a benign kidney condition. That put the campaign on hold for about a month while she recovered. Then, in early August, her policy aide, who helped her launch the campaign, announced she would be departing to work on “foreign policy issues,” she told Politico.
The Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention summit, first held in 2010, has become an annual event that brings together a consortium of government agencies and NGOs.
The event was hosted by Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), a department within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), that, according to HHS Secretary Alex Azar, first raised the issue of bullying as a “serious national concern” in 2001 with its Stop Bullying Now campaign.