By Lynette Owens
Today, we are celebrating Safer Internet Day along with many other organizations, teachers, and families, in over 100 countries. It’s the annual celebration when we bring attention to all matters related to making the Internet a safer and better place for ourselves and others, and it’s also a reminder that we still have lots of work to do. We have chosen to celebrate this day since 2010 with the launch of a very important campaign to us called “What’s Your Story?” It’s a video contest with a social media twist. Each year, we ask a question and we invite individual film-makers and schools to answer it. Each year, the question hopes to elicit responses that teach us in a way that those of us who never grew up with the Internet ever could.
What’s Your Story? highlights the experiences of young people, whose voices we often exclude when we wrestle with how to raise a generation that is safe, responsible and thriving online. Each year we ask them for their stories, and each year they’ve answered in ways that enlighten us, entertain us, and inspire us.
In 2016, we have decided to ask a very simple question: “What does the Internet mean to you?”
In the past, we’ve been more specific in our contest theme, asking about good mobile phone use, being a good online citizen, and even asking what the good side of the Internet looks like. But there seems to be a shift happening, subtly but certainly, in the ways our youngest citizens view technology in their lives. Schools are increasingly using technology to improve teaching, learning, and communication driving our kids to be online for more than just entertainment. Teens are becoming more protective of their privacy by abandoning more public spaces like Facebook and Twitter for services like WhatsApp and Snapchat. When 10 and 11 year old kids regularly tell me they have their own phones and are using Instagram, Skype, and Dubsmash with each other (because Facebook is for grown-ups) with their parents approval, it’s not surprising, but when you take all of these trends together, we believe something is amiss.
With these shifts, there may be new benefits, new challenges, and new ways that the Internet is changing the way young people live and interact with each other and the world around them. Getting meaningful research on an entire generation of kids (especially those under 13) is very difficult and expensive to do, but someone will do it, at some point. In the meantime, we don’t want to wait. We want to know what the Internet means to them. Without this insight, how can we help best support them to be successful online? Are we worrying about the wrong things? Have we missed something that they need help with?
The theme for Safer Internet Day 2016 is “Play your part for a better Internet.” We have chosen to play our part through the What’s Your Story? contest. And we invite individual-filmmakers, students, teachers, parents and schools to do their part, too, by telling us “What does the Internet mean to you?” and sharing those stories with the world.
To find out more about the 2016 What’s Your Story? video contest, go to whatsyourstory.trendmicro.com
A few details:
- Grand Prize for a School: $10,000, plus other cash prizes for runners-up.
- Grand Prize for an Individual: $10,000, plus other cash prizes for runners-up.
- Enter by April 12, 2016!
Lynette Owens is the Founder and Global Director of Trend Micro’s Internet Safety for Kids and Families program. With 20+ years in the tech industry, Lynette speaks and blogs regularly on how to help kids become great digital citizens. She works with communities and 1:1 school districts across the U.S. and around the world to support digital literacy and citizenship education. She is a board member of the National Association of Media Literacy Education and SPARK Kindness, and serves on the advisory boards of INHOPE and U.S. Safer Internet Day.
Follow her on Twitter @lynettetowens