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Melania Trump unveils 'Be Best' campaign to combat cyberbullying

Initiative encourages the nation's children to speak with "respect and compassion" and also promotes well-being and helping kids affected by the opioid crisis.

First Lady Melania Trump Speaks On The Launch Of Her Initiatives In The Rose Garden Of White House

US First Lady Melania Trump speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House  on Monday about her "Be Best" initiative.

Win McNamee / Getty Images

First Lady Melania Trump on Monday launched "Be better," an awareness campaign aimed at combating cyberbullying and teaching the nation's children to speak with "respect and compassion."

The long-awaited initiative focuses on teaching children to use social media in a positive way, promoting healthy living, and supporting children affected by the opioid crisis. The campaign was introduced after the first lady spent more than a year reading to children, visiting a recovery center for infants born addicted to drugs and meeting with tech executives.

"Social media can have a positive and negative effect on our children, but too often it is used in negative ways," Mrs. Trump said during a press conference in the White House Rose Garden as her husband sat listening in the first row. "It is our responsibility as adults to educate and remind them that when they are using their voices, whether verbally or online, they must choose their words wisely."

Raising awareness about cyberbullying has been on the first lady's agenda since November 2016, when she said she would focus on the issue. In March, she hosted a meeting at the White House to discuss how tech companies could do a better job of fighting online harassment.    

"I feel strongly that as adults, we can and should 'be best' at educating our children about the importance of a healthy and balanced life," Mrs. Trump said.

Abusive behavior online is far from a new phenomenon. Forty-one percent of US adults have been personally subjected to harassing behavior online, according to a 2017 survey by the Pew Research Center.

Conspicuously absent from Mrs. Trump's speech was any mention that her husband, President Donald Trump, has used Twitter as a platform to constantly attack his opponents with insults and belittling nicknames. During one tweetstorm before the 2016 US election, Trump called former Miss Universe winner Alicia Machado "disgusting" and a "con" and invited followers to check out a nonexistent Machado sex tape.

Following the first lady's announcement, President Trump took to the podium to sign a "Be Best Proclamation." The president thanked her for her devotion to the victims of the opioid crisis but didn't mention her focus on improved online behavior.

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