Recently I had the honor of speaking alongside First Lady Melania Trump, federal colleagues, academics and researchers, private firms and students at the Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention Summit on Cyberbullying hosted at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The First Lady opened the event and shared her passion and focus on protecting children, especially through online platforms. She highlighted the efforts of her “Be Best” Campaign, which focuses on major issues facing children today, including social media. Her presence signaled to our federal colleagues and private sector attendees that she was personally committed to protecting children and youth online. After her remarks she remained at the event to learn more about this issue and how she can continue to make a difference.
So, what exactly is cyberbullying?
The Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention website defines cyberbullying as,
bullying that takes place over digital devices like cell phones, computers, and tablets. Cyberbullying can occur through SMS, Text, and apps, or online in social media, forums, or gaming where people can view, participate in, or share content. Cyberbullying includes sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else. It can include sharing personal or private information about someone else causing embarrassment or humiliation. Some cyberbullying crosses the line into unlawful or criminal behavior.
Akil Vohra, Director of Strategic Initiatives at the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, moderated the summit’s first panel discussion with representatives from Facebook, Twitter, Google, and the Family Online Safety Institute. As the mother of two young children who are carefully being introduced to the internet, the panel was very valuable to me. How are existing platforms protecting our children, and how can parents be better engaged? The panel covered a range of issues including how these platforms and the federal sector can work together to stop bullying.
The summit continued to address a range of issues including perspectives from research where attendees learned about youth perspectives on online harassment and how cyberbullying impacts youth and families. The panel raised awareness about adolescent social aggression in the context of digital communication, even touching on how minority populations including AAPI communities, in particular, are affected by bullying.
Later in the day, a panel comprised of law enforcement officials addressed sexting and how to prevent cyberbullying, and explored how law enforcement and schools can work together. Lastly, Nicole White from the Office of Safe and Healthy Students at the U.S. Department of Education led a discussion focused on the education perspective and addressed challenges schools are facing in preventing and addressing cyberbullying. The session presented interventions and strategies schools are applying to address cyberbullying, including mindfulness training.
Each and every day, we make decisions that affect those around us, including our children. We are proud to say that the Federal Partners on Bullying Prevention are thinking about and taking action to ensure our children are growing up in a safer environment. We hope you can support this work moving forward by getting involved and becoming an “upstander” instead of a bystander.
Holly Ham is the executive director at the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.