Obama tackles bullying via Facebook

10 Mar 2011

US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama have released a video for Facebook that talks about why preventing bullying is a responsibility we all share. The video was shot for Facebook yesterday during the run up to the White House’s Conference on Bullying Prevention that is taking place in Washington, DC today, which Facebook is engaging in, in the effort to make the internet safer.

The video can be viewed here. At today’s event, the President, First Lady, the US Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services will welcome students, parents and teachers for a conversation about how best to prevent bullying.

On the White House blog, Kevin Jennings, assistant deputy secretary for Safe and Drug-Free Schools, writes: “With the President’s involvement today, we are sending the strongest message we can that all of us need to do more.

“For too long, people have excused bullying by saying things like, ‘What can you do, bullying has been going on forever. Kids are mean.’ Or ‘She just made a bad joke, she didn’t mean to hurt anyone.’ Or, worse yet, ‘Bullying is just part of growing up. It builds character.’ We reject those excuses. As the President says, bullying isn’t a normal rite of passage or an inevitable part of growing up. We all have an obligation to ensure that our schools are safe for all of our children. We can, and we will, stop bullying now.”

Live conference at White House today via Facebook

From 5.20pm today (Irish time) or 12.20pm in Washington, DC, people can view in real-time the conference via a special live stream from the White House.

This will feature a conversation about how we can all work together to make the internet safer and promote a culture of shared responsibility and of strong digital citizenship.

Special ‘Facebook Live’ event at the White House conference on bullying prevention

Assistant to the President and deputy senior adviser Stephanie Cutter; Facebook chief security officer Joe Sullivan; MTV vice-president for public affairs Jason Rzepka; and teen behaviour expert Rosalind Wiseman will take questions from the public via Facebook on bullying prevention. Watch live at WhiteHouse.gov/live and submit your questions on Facebook.

People can also view the show from Facebook pages such as these:

http://apps.facebook.com/whitehouselive and http://apps.facebook.com/facebookdclive.

Facebook and safety

Facebook itself has issued a statement about how it aims to nurture a positive experience for people who use its site:

“We also believe that nothing is more important than keeping people who use our service safe. We believe online safety is a shared responsibility and that’s why we partner with organisations globally to create the most robust and effective safety environment possible.

“Facebook has a real name culture where people associate their actions with their true names and identities in front of their friends and family. This leads to greater accountability and it’s a violation of our policies to use a fake name or operate under a false identity. We encourage people to report anyone they think is doing this.”

Ireland and cyber bullying

In Ireland, the the Office for Internet Safety, the National Centre for Technology in Education (NCTE) and Barnardos have teamed up to launch the booklet Get with It! A Guide to Cyberbullying.

A dedicated website called Webwise, an initiative of NCTE, also has information on using the web wisely.

Meanwhile, the Inspire Ireland Foundation, via its website Reachout.com, has a fact sheet on cyber bullying.

Mobile app to combat cyber bullying

Dublin start-up Associate Mobile has also developed a new parental supervision platform called Mobileminder, so parents can monitor their child’s mobile activities remotely.

Another service is WebAware – the result of a collaborative effort between Waterford Institute of Technology and Co Kilkenny-based Coláiste Pobal Osraí.

Shared responsibility

Commenting on how we all have a shared responsibility to tackle cyber bullying, Facebook adds: “We also leverage the 500m people on Facebook to keep an eye out for offensive or potentially dangerous content. We encourage them to report that content to Facebook as well as discuss it with parents, teachers, and others in the community who can help.

“We recognise the harm that can result if people are bullied online, so we take steps to reduce the likelihood of it happening and to diminish its impact. We’re concerned about any abusive behaviour and strive to promote an environment where everyone on Facebook can connect and share comfortably.”

To view the Facebook Safety Page click here, while its Safety Centre can be accessed here.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic