As students across the country return to school to begin a new academic year, first lady Melania Trump is promoting healthy online habits and cautioning against the dangers of cyberbullying.
The first lady made opening remarks Monday at the Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention’s Cyberbullying Prevention Summit in Rockville, Maryland.
“I am honored to open this important summit on cyberbullying prevention, and want to start by thanking each of you for your commitment to the topic,” Trump said to government officials and social media company representatives.
After her remarks, the first lady stayed for a panel, “Perspectives from the Social Media Industry: Existing Efforts to Support Youth,” comprising representatives from Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook, as well as the Family Online Safety Institute.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar also attended the event and introduced the president’s wife as the “leader for America’s children,” according to press pool reports.
. @FLOTUS and @SecAzar now listening to Joseph Grunwald, an LGBT youth activist who was bullied, both psychically and on social media, on a daily basis when he was in high school. pic.twitter.com/a18TAl8tZk
— Kate Bennett (@KateBennett_DC) August 20, 2018
“In today’s global society, social media is an inevitable part of our children’s daily lives. It can be used in many positive ways, but can also be destructive and harmful when used incorrectly,” she said.
Some have criticized the first lady’s focus on cyberbullying as “hypocritical,” because of President Donald Trump’s inclination to attack his opponents using Twitter.
This criticism is not new, as the first lady has acknowledged, including at a roundtable discussion in March when she hosted several tech executives.
“I am well aware that people are skeptical of me discussing this topic. I have been criticized for my commitment to tackling this issue, and I know that will continue. But it will not stop me from doing what I know is right,” she said.
Her communications director, Stephanie Grisham, echoed those sentiments in a statement released shortly after the first lady departed.
“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,” Grisham said. “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.”
Rather than dissecting her remarks, let’s focus on the countless children who struggle w bullying & online safety each day. https://t.co/5W9x8QnUcZ
— Stephanie Grisham (@StephGrisham45) August 20, 2018
Cyberbullying is one of many components of her initiative “Be Best,” which is dedicated to raising awareness of the issues children face in America today. The initiative features two other main focuses in addition to social media use—well-being and opioid abuse.
“Be Best chooses to focus on the importance of teaching our next generation how to conduct themselves safely and in a positive manner in an online setting,” the first lady said May 7 in announcing the initiative in the Rose Garden of the White House. The president signed a proclamation declaring it “Be Best Day.”
— Fox News (@FoxNews) August 20, 2018
“I have been so inspired by the children I have met in my time as first lady, and believe our next generation has unlimited potential to impact our world in positive ways,” she said.
The Associated Press reported Monday afternoon that the first lady will make an official international trip to Africa in October without the president.