Shaping a Better Internet

Youth and schools share tips for first-time Internet users.

GUEST COLUMN | by Lynette Owens

CREDIT Goldberg Cowan De Wolf PhillipsonMost adults are worried about children using the Internet, yet parents, teachers and guardians still fall short when it comes to teaching them how to use it responsibly. Many life lessons we had during childhood help us shape the guidance we pass on to our own kids, however, as a mother of two school-aged kids, I realize most adults did not have access to the Internet, smart phones and today’s wide offerings of technology when we were young — so we don’t have the luxury of drawing on past personal experiences to best teach our kids how to use technology properly.

They shared a similar message: it’s very important to be responsible online. But, what does that mean?

For this reason, I helped found Trend Micro’s Internet Safety for Kids & Families program in 2008, to help fill the gap between what kids needed to know about using the Internet responsibly and what they actually knew. What we realized quickly was that people young and old were learning about the Internet and establishing norms on it together, rather than adults learning first and passing it on to kids. We believed young people had good advice and insight, and in many cases were more knowledgeable than adults, on how to use the Internet wisely. This was the driver that led us to launch the video contest, “What’s Your Story?”

Since 2010, individuals and schools across the globe have participated in the contest, which asks young people to address a wide range of topics, including: Being a Good Online Citizen, Using a Mobile Phone Wisely, Maintaining Your Online Privacy and more.

We concluded our most recent contest this past spring, this time asking: “What is something you’ve learned that could help someone getting online for the first time?” Applications from entrants were received from across the United States and Canada; tips and topics to teach others ranged from protecting your private information online, to exploring the world, to dealing with cyberbullying and more.

After months of receiving and reviewing entries, we announced this year’s grand prize winners: “Internet Heroes” and “My Headset.” The first, a submission from Antelope Ridge Elementary School in Aurora, CO, discusses using the Internet in a responsible manner – from citing sources online to being careful about giving out one’s personal information online. “My Headset” shows one young person’s journey from participating in online cruelty towards other gamers online and discovering the negative impact it had on his life offline, to realizing there was and is a better way to behave online, in gaming communities, on social media, and elsewhere.

While the contestants imparted a wide range advice in their videos, they shared a similar message: it’s very important to be responsible online. But, what does that mean? According to the experts, we learned online responsibility consists of:

These videos, along with past winning entries are available for free to schools or organizations that seek to raise awareness among people of any age about being a responsible digital citizen. They are less than two minutes in length, creative, entertaining and engaging.

We encourage parents to share them with their kids and teachers to use them in their classrooms. Videos submitted to the “What’s Your Story?” contest not only provide insights into the challenges and opportunities that our children, students, etc. are exposed to daily, but also provide answers and guidance for these issues, all from a young person’s point of view.

If you would like to use any of the winning videos from this year’s contest or learn about how you can get involved in the future, please reach out to

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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