Photo: William Moon

First Lady Melania Trump spoke against cyberbullying at a roundtable with tech leaders, from Google, Amazon, Facebook, and others, Richard Wagner reports.

In an era of school shootings and teen suicide, special attention to the psychological health of our youth is crucial.  First Lady Melania Trump has made the effects of technology on America’s youth a priority in her role as the first lady.

On Tuesday, March 20, 2018,  the First Lady conducted a roundtable discussion with tech industry leaders.  After handshakes around the u-shaped table and informal introductions with attendees, the First Lady delivered brief opening remarks.

She began by expressing thoughts and prayers for the students, parents, and faculty affected by today’s school shooting in Great Mills, Maryland. “These events are becoming far too common,” said the First Lady, adding that they renew her interest in providing children with the tools to grow up safely.

Following this, the discussion focused heavily on cyberbullying.  “In my role as the first lady, I receive many letters from children who have been bullied or feel threatened on social media,” said FLOTUS.  She added that she looked forward to hearing from attendees what has been accomplished in addressing that problem and what remains to be done.

Naturally, given her husband’s history on Twitter, this topic was brought up.  Nobody would hold the current President up as an example of how to behave on social media, and Melania didn’t even attempt to defend such behavior, as she stated in response:

“I am well aware that people are skeptical of me discussing the 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. I am here with one goal: helping children and our next generation”

Melania Trump herself does not have a reputation for cyberbullying.  However, she has been the victim of cyberbullying. During the campaign, many held up erotic photos from her early days in order to shame her and Trump’s supporters.  

Whatever Donald is guilty of, Melania Trump doesn’t want that to distract from her efforts to deal with one of the major causes of this decades-old epidemic in America.  It is worth noting that the first major school shooting – Columbine – took place right around the time that dial-up internet, chat-rooms, and instant messaging were becoming mainstream.

Several of the attendees discussed their efforts to address this technology’s effects on the youth.  Amazon’s Huseman said that his company was using their Alexa artificial-intelligence application to deliver children information on bullying, Google’s Dunn said that her company was partnering with middle-school principals to teach children to be smart online, and Twitter’s Monje briefly referenced the “inspirational” uses of Twitter by young people.

“Social media and technology are interwoven in the daily lives of our children,” said First Lady Melania Trump.  “As parents, we must find ways to talk openly with them about the potential dangers that exist so they can be responsible digital citizens.  We have a real opportunity to teach positive online behaviors, but that also means addressing issues offline such as kindness, empathy, and respect.  I am grateful to the technology experts for their collaboration and willingness to come together at our meeting today. I look forward to continuing our focus on educating children on the power of positivity.”

The full list of attendees is as follows:

Amazon’s Brian Huseman, Facebook’s Antigone Davis, the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI)’s Stephen Balkam, Google’s Lee Dunn, the Internet Association’s Michael Beckerman, Microsoft’s Julie Brill, Twitter’s Carlos Monje, Snap’s Jennifer Stout, White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy Chris Liddell, and Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council Andrew Bremberg. (Brill sat to FLOTUS’s left and Dunn to FLOTUS’s right.)

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Richard Wagner

Richard Wagner is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at Florida State College at Jacksonville. He conducts independent study on the American conservative movement and foreign policy. When he is...