Melania Trump spoke against the “negative and even deadly” consequences of cyberbullying while urging parents and teachers to prepare children for the attacks and negativity they will face online.
During the 2020 National Parent Teachers Association (PTA) Legislative Conference in Alexandria, Virginia, the first lady described how the internet can be a “tool for good,” but can also be “destructive and dangerous” when not used properly.
Trump used the example of a 16-year-old boy in Manchester, Tennessee, who took his own life after a classmate showed his private text messages online as the consequences of “cruel actions” committed on the internet that affect children.
“In many cases, social media platforms can have a negative and even deadly impact,” she said. “These devastating and life changing tragedies are a heavy reminder of the consequences of irresponsible online behavior. Our children are growing up in a world where so much of their day to day interaction takes place online.”
The first lady, who runs the White House’s anti-bullying Be Best initiative, said parents and teachers are on the “frontlines” in the battle to educate and protect children against online abuse.
“You see firsthand the uplifting effects positive online experiences have on children. You also witness how destructive internet use can tear down a student’s self esteem.
“With your help, we can break down the harmful barriers that internet abuse poses to our children and society.”
The first lady launched the Be Best initiative in May 2018 with the aim of addressing children’s emotional health, online safety, and tackling the opioid abuse crisis.
As ever when the first lady discusses issues of online bullying, people are keen to point out the contradictions of her not addressing the behavior of her husband President Donald Trump.
The day of his wife’s speech, the president tweeted “it’s going to be a BAD day for Crazie Bernie [Sanders]” and described the Federal Reserve as “pathetic, slow moving.”
In September 2019, #BeBest trended on Twitter after President Trump mocked and belittled the then 16-year-old climate change activist Greta Thunberg on Twitter.
Referencing the first lady’s speech, George Conway, lawyer and husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, wrote on Twitter in a thinly veiled reference to the president, “Kids also need to think of others rather than themselves, they shouldn’t lie, they shouldn’t brag, they shouldn’t assume they know everything, they should learn to spell, and they should do their homework. #BeBest.”
Prior to her speech, Leslie Boggs, president of National PTA said in a statement, “We are honored to have the First Lady speak at our annual Legislative Conference.
“The focus of the BE BEST initiative on teaching children the importance of social, emotional and physical health-with the pillars of well-being, online safety and opioid abuse-align with several of National PTA’s advocacy priorities and programmatic initiatives.”
The Be Best initiative has been contacted for comment.
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