Better Together

Let our kids help create a better Internet.

GUEST COLUMN | by Lynette Owens

CREDIT Safer Internet DayEach year, many countries, organizations, governments, schools, and individuals around the world have used Safer Internet Day to raise awareness about a wide range of issues pertaining to the safe and responsible use of the Internet. This year’s theme is “Let’s Create A Better Internet Together.”

Since 2010, we have celebrated this annual day with the “What’s Your Story?” campaign. By design, we don’t say much. Instead, we encourage young people – with their classrooms or as individuals – to tell the world how they see things and what it means to be great at being online.

There are 37 million kids aged 3-17 that have access to the Internet, representing 18% of all who have Internet access in the U.S. 

Let’s just admit: kids know a lot

It seems in many cases, the public dialogue about safe, respectful, and productive technology use has disproportionately been centered on kids. It makes sense as they are who we all believe to be the most vulnerable and in need of the most guidance with the Internet. But the issues of online safety, privacy, piracy, bullying, and overall digital literacy is not only a youth issue. We all need more education and sometimes reminding of what it means to use the Internet wisely.

Parents and educators don’t have the luxury of recalling their past to guide kids. Beyond the obvious rules and laws about appropriate use, we’re all learning and shaping the rules and norms of appropriate Internet use together. It doesn’t matter how old you are, how you use it, or when you use it.

There are 37 million kids aged 3-17 that have access to the Internet, representing 18% of all who have Internet access in the U.S. They are some of the earliest adopters of technology, and certainly those designed as social networks. While we are all worried about them and working furiously to make sure they have the right guidance to navigate the Internet safely and successfully, it’s very likely that we’re still coming up short because we, ourselves, don’t know enough to advise them of everything. Technology is changing so rapidly and the way we’re using it even more so.

But this fact isn’t daunting to young people. They explore new apps without pause or hesitation, and either adopt or abandon any technology based on whether or not they think it’s useful, interesting or entertaining.   We believe in the midst of that online exploration they are learning things along the way, and are even gaining valuable insight into the best, safest, most private, most efficient, and savvy ways to use technologies that are themselves still maturing and evolving. So, why not let them share what they know?

Looking for a young perspective

To that end, and as part of this year’s “What’s Your Story?” campaign, we are asking young people to answer the following question:

What have you learned that would be helpful to someone who’s new to the Internet?

Since 2010, we have asked young people to respond to different themes through original videos that they must also promote to their family, friends and communities. And we have never been disappointed since day 1. They have a lot of great things to say and we are always excited to listen.

It’s a video contest, but with a twist. We aren’t just looking for contestants to produce a great video or tell a powerful story. Contestants need to get people to hear their stories, too. If they do it successfully, there are many cash prizes including 2 grand prizes. One school and one individual film-maker will each win $10,000.

Why did we design a more complicated contest? First, it’s important to us to get as many young people involved as possible. We chose video because it’s a medium they like and are familiar with. But we didn’t want to limit this to just the professional or aspiring film-maker. That is why views and ratings of a video matter; everyone is able to promote their stories to family, friends, classmates, and beyond.

Second, we want to encourage a positive use of social media. In our contest, it’s a means for social activism as well as increasing one’s chances of winning.

Today we’re asking you to be part of the What’s Your Story? campaign. Help encourage your students and teachers to be part of a great cause that could help others and themselves. Find out more, visit

Lynette Owens is the founder and global director of Trend Micro’s Internet Safety for Kids and Families (ISKF) program. A mom of two school-aged children, Lynette established the ISKF program in 2008 to help extend the company’s vision of making a world safe for the exchange of digital information to the world’s youngest citizens. The program, active in 19 countries, helps kids, families, and schools become safe, responsible, and successful users of technology. Follow Lynette on Twitter @lynettetowens or read her blog:  

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