First Lady Melania Trump spoke to the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) at its annual Legislative Conference on Tuesday, which brought together more than 300 PTA leaders and policymakers from across the country.
“When I launched the Be Best Initiative, my first goal was to raise awareness of three primary issues that children face today—social-emotional health, opioid abuse, and online safety. My second goal was to shed light on programs and people across the country and around the globe that successfully combat these problems,” she said.
“Three years later, I am proud to say we have made great strides in fulfilling this mission. I have visited schools, hospitals, communities, non-profits, private companies, and government agencies that support and protect our children and our communities,” she added.
Melania Trump called out Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, saying these social media platforms can be helpful when used to share important life updates and keep people informed, but can also “have a negative and even deadly impact” when misused. To illustrate her point, she spoke about a 16-year-old Tennessee teenager who committed suicide in September 2019 after his classmates posted private messages sent between him and another boy on social media.
“It is sad to say that more than one in three teenagers have suffered from cyberbullying,” she said, possibly citing a 2007 Pew Research Center report. A more recent Pew report says that almost two-thirds of teens in the United States have been bullied or harassed online.
“As parents, adults, educators, and community leaders, it is our responsibility to ensure our children are being taught the importance of positive ways to interact with each other and prepare them for attacks and negativity they could receive in this new digital age,” she said, adding that she was “thrilled” to learn about PTAs across the country have been working to promote safe and responsible online behaviors.
The first lady has not spoken about the coronavirus, called COVID-19, which has recently affected the lives of many parents, students, and educators. As of Tuesday, more than 1,250 K-12 schools in the United States have closed or are scheduled to close over the threat of coronavirus, according to Education Week.