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How Humor and Irony Are Shedding a Light on Cyberbullying

FLOTUS might be a poor messenger, but it's the message that's important.

Source: Wikimedia

Online incivility.

The statistics are disheartening. In the last 2017 PEW Research survey, 66 percent of adults witnessed online harassment, while 41 percent of us have been victims. Almost two-thirds, 67 percent of young people in this same survey, said they have experienced some form of online abuse.

First Lady Melania Trump pledged to combat cyberbullying as her public initiative during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Stay skeptical, but also aware

In launching her fight to end bullying online, the First Lady recently invited the heads of Google, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat to the White House where she also acknowledged the skepticism people may have:

“I am well aware that people are skeptical of me discussing this topic,” she said, “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.”

Although the First Lady is passionate about her cause, and shared how she receives many letters from children that have been bullied online, hopefully she is aware that that kids are not the only victims.

Make no mistake about it, from parents to teachers to doctors to celebrities to politicians — no is immune from being the target of online abuse.

In a tweet after her meeting with the tech companies she said:

"It was a very productive meeting on cyber safety & how to teach our children to be responsible digital citizens. Thank you @amazon @Facebook @FOSI @Google @m_Beckerman @Microsoft @Twitter & @snap for coming to the @WhiteHouse today & sharing your valuable insight and expertise."

It's commendable to want to educate our youth about online safety and digital citizenship, however it's impossible to do this without a clear understanding that it starts with adults.

From parents, family members, teachers, community leaders (pastors), coaches, entertainers, politicians and others that have an impact on young people's lives—they are following you not only offline, but your social behavior online.

We must help adults understand the importance of respectful and responsible digital behavior in order for our young people to better understand it.

Humor helps

Shortly after Melania Trump announced she was meeting with the tech giants to discuss online bullying, comedian Jimmy Kimmel helped point out the irony of the messenger.

When we are facing cyber-humiliation, the rising trend of bullycide and more adults acting badly online—having someone like Jimmy Kimmel provide satire gives this platform a voice to more audiences that otherwise wouldn't be listening.

Irony is not lost

Coast to coast people have witnessed our leader of the land making headlines, not only for political reasons, but in surveys such as 1 in 4 Americans find President Trump's social media behavior inappropriate, reported by YouGov survey in December 2017.

Last summer a YouGov survey reported that over half of Americans (61 percent) believed that the President of the United States is a cyberbully.

Although the First Lady's husband can't seem to control himself with a keypad, should we fault her for trying? She may not seem like the ideal messenger, but the message needs attention.

Sara Haines, a co-host of The View, explains why the First Lady is likely very aware of her circumstances but also understands the urgency of the cause:

“I don’t think the irony is lost on her,” she argues to her fellow co-host. “I think she’s using her voice specifically for that cause for a reason. If it were my husband, you can’t trash him on a show and say, ‘You’re right, he’s such a jerk,’ and then go home.”

In reality, maybe Melania Trump knows exactly what's she doing. This could be her way of making things right—in the cyber-place, where there is so much digital discourse.

Online incivility, it's worth talking about in all forms.

Ways to improve our digital responsibility as role-models:

  • Become an up-stander when you witness cyber-hate.

  • See something—say something. Discuss offline about online inappropriate behavior.
  • Think twice, post once. 15 minutes of humor is never worth a lifetime of humiliation.
  • Guidelines for safe sharing online.

  • Be constructive with your comments, not combative. (Hate can perpetuates hate, click out if you can't control yourself). Anger is temporary, the Internet is forever.

  • Report, flag and talk about harassment. (Make sure your kids know these features).