By Lynette T. Owens

It pleasantly surprised us a year ago when we launched our first user-generated video contest called What’s Your Story.  The goal was to encourage young people to give advice to other young people about being safe online (to see last year’s winners, visit

We were amazed at what teens could do with a video camera, music, editing software and six weeks to submit a video. With nearly half the entries coming from teens aged 13-17, we noticed quickly how passionate young people were about these issues.  They were creative and insightful (particularly about keeping a good reputation online, the submission category with the most entries), and it struck us how young people were more apt to listen to their peers than to another adult admonishing them.

According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 93% of U.S. teens go online, and while much of the time they connect from home (89%), they are also connecting in other places such as school (77%), someone else’s house (71%), and the library (60%).  And while only 27% of the 75% of U.S. teens that own a mobile phone use it to get online, that number is likely to rise as phones become more feature rich and greater numbers of kids are using them.  

The fact that kids are online outside the home so often underscores the need for parents to do more than just put the family PC in a visible place in the home and use Internet filters to keep them from accessing inappropriate content. Being an active, involved parent today means teaching our kids to make good decisions for and by themselves online, especially when they’re not under our supervision.

We believe one way to do this is to involve young people in their own online safety. Teens adopt new technology much more quickly and at younger ages than adults–70% of teens versus 40% of adults use social networking sites. In order to harness the smarts of these early adopters, we created What’s Your Story to give young people a voice in becoming part of the solution to being safer online.

The contest is unique in that it requires young people to become educated about being safe, responsible citizens of the Internet, then empowers them to teach their peers through their videos.  The peer review and crowdsourcing of the videos are used to help select the winners. Unlike other video contests that usually rely on static and subjective criteria, What’s Your Story gets kids to stay actively engaged throughout the entire process, from the time the videos are submitted until the winners are chosen.

On the heels of last year’s success, next Tuesday, February 8, we will launch the 2nd annual “What’s Your Story?” Internet safety video contest.  This time, there are three entry categories: Being a Good Online Citizen, Using a Mobile Phone Wisely, and Maintaining Online Privacy.

And this year, we have partnered with numerous organizations, from social networking sites to internet safety advocates, that believe in the importance of keeping kids safe online and are passionate about giving youth a voice and a role in creating effective solutions.  Together we hope young people will once again be part of and benefit from What’s Your Story.

The grand prize?  $10,000.  Schools and individual entries are encouraged and prizes in each of these groups will be awarded as well.  We will also use some of the best entries for educational purposes throughout the remainder of 2011. 

On Tuesday, February 8 see all the contest details @

To all you parents, What’s Your Story can be a great way to create a positive dialogue with your children about ways to be safe and responsible online, and give them an interactive tool to help them be part of the solution.

Think about having your kids participate.  And tell everyone you know!

Lynette Owens

Lynette Owens

Lynette Owens is Vice President of Global Consumer Education & Marketing at Trend Micro and Founder of the Internet Safety for Kids and Families program. With 25+ 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 online safety, digital and media literacy and digital citizenship education. She is a board member of the National Association for Media Literacy Education, an advisory committee member of the Digital Wellness Lab, and serves on the advisory boards of INHOPE and U.S. Safer Internet Day.

Follow her on Twitter @lynettetowens.