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First Lady Confronts Bullying

First Lady Melania Trump appeared in the 5600 Pavillion on Monday to kickoff a day-long summit on cyberbullying prevention, stressing "the importance of teaching our next generation how to conduct themselves safely and in a positive manner in an on-line setting."
First Lady Melania Trump spoke last month at a day-long summit on cyberbullying prevention, stressing "the importance of teaching our next generation how to conduct themselves safely and in a positive manner in an on-line setting."

 

"Bullying has a profound effect on our kids and their mental health. It's a topic that doesn't always get the attention that it deserves. But it's a topic near and dear to my heart, near and dear to the First Lady's heart. Both of us have teenagers going through this and the very difficult issues around social media."

HHS Secretary Alex Azar, noting that HRSA's Stop Bullying Now campaign began raising public awareness of bullying "as a serious national concern" as early as 2001.

 

HHS Secretary Alex AzarThe summit included a panel discussion with representatives of Google, Facebook, Twitter and the Family Online Safety Institute about industry efforts to improve the reporting of cyberbullying incidents  and hurtful content while enlisting the help of parents, teachers, school administrators, police and others to become active participants in cleaning up abuse on the Internet.

In an age when 47 percent of adults report being harassed or having their privacy invaded,  keeping kids protected requires a new set of parenting skills, said Antigone Davis, head of Global Safety for Facebook. Particularly as the number and complexity of interactive devices speeds ahead -- from videogames and "smart toys" to  voice-activated "virtual assistants" -- the average consumer can feel overwhelmed. 

For starters, Davis added, "parents need to model good on-line behavior" themselves and become familiar with the wealth of new services increasingly being offered by social media providers to spot, report and stop abuse. She noted that nearly eight out of 10 U.S. teachers surveyed said they don't understand the technology themselves well enough to teach the pitfalls and new remedies.

 

Moving testimony: (from left) HRSA Administrator Dr. George Sigounas, Secretary Azar and the First Lady listened to University of Texas student Joseph Grunwald describe his years of abuse in middle school and high school when fellow students discovered he was gay. Physically and verbally terrorized at school each day, he said, the cyberbullying he endured was almost worse for being so pervasive and "inescapable." Grunwald said that bystander intervention and student-led activism are the most effective avenues for addressing bullying.
Moving testimony: (from left) HRSA Administrator Dr. George Sigounas, Secretary Azar and the First Lady listened to University of Texas student Joseph Grunwald describe his years of abuse in middle school and high school when fellow students discovered he was gay. Physically and verbally terrorized at school each day, he said, the cyberbullying he endured was almost worse for being so pervasive and "inescapable." Grunwald said that bystander intervention and student-led activism are the most effective avenues for addressing bullying.

 

"When I was being bullied," he said, "not one person stood up for me."

In earlier remarks, the Secretary observed that one in five U.S. students has a mental or behavioral health issue, but less than half receive treatment -- leaving them more likely to dropout, engage in substance misuse, and become obese or suicidal.

You can watch the First Lady and Secretary's full remarks on CSPAN HRSA exit disclaimer.

Date Last Reviewed:  August 2018