Browsing through my News Feed on Facebook this week, I was surprised to see a video message from President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle about cyberbullying. Intrigued, I clicked on the video to hear the President joke about not “bugging me” for a friend request, but rather bringing attention to the White House Conference on Bullying Prevention which took place yesterday in DC. Those who attended the event, including parents, teachers, and students, gathered to discuss how to stop cyberbullying, and about the responsibility parents have to make sure their children treat each other with respect over the Internet.
The video, which is exclusive to Facebook, served as a promotion and opened the conference. Additionally, Facebook hosted a Facebook DC Live event at 12:20 p.m. Eastern time to tackle how we can make the Internet safer, and how to promote a shared sense of digital citizenship. This spanned across several Facebook pages and included individuals from Facebook Security, MTV, and the White House Office of Public Engagement.
The Pew Internet & American Life Project defines cyberbullying as online harassment that is repeated over time, and involves a power imbalance between a perpetrator and a victim. In a report released in May 2010, the project reported that 93% of today’s teens 12-17 go online. Of those 93%, 32% of online teens have experienced one of the following forms of online harassment:
15% of teens reported having private material (IM, text, email) forwarded without permission
13% had received threatening messages
13% said someone had spread a rumor about them online
6% had someone post an embarrassing picture of them online without permission
In the video, President Obama advocates the importance of addressing cyberbullying, “This isn’t an issue that makes headlines every day, but it affects every single young person in our country,” he says.
Putting a stop to cyberbullying has been an important issue to Facebook, the White House, and as President Obama emphasized in a speech kicking off the Conference, “Preventing bullying isn’t just important to us as President and First Lady; it’s important for us as parents.”
Personally, it was a nice change to see President Obama in my newsfeed as opposed to what someone ate for lunch or link the newest celebrity gossip (which I too am guilty of, on occasion).
Facebook’s increasing support of awareness initiatives and charity causes is proving to be a powerful tool for social marketers to help spread their client’s message, while encouraging others to disseminate the information through their other personal and professional networks. Leveraging social networks to promote awareness of issues and causes brings a whole new level to how effective viral internet word-of-mouth marketing can be.