By Lynette T. Owens

Today marks the 8th year of Safer Internet Day.  This is an event founded by the Insafe Network, a coalition of centers around the EU that promote the safe, responsible use of the Internet among youth.  There are a number of events and activities happening on this day throughout the EU and the world, including the launch of our 2nd annual “What’s Your Story?” internet safety video contest.

As I mentioned in my previous post, it is with great excitement and anticipation that we are introducing the contest for the 2nd time.  Part of this comes from the response to last year’s contest; our expectations were exceeded by every measure.  The other part comes from all the changes we’ve made since 2010.  First, we have expanded the contest to include the UK together with Canada and the U.S.  It will be interesting to see how attitudes and concerns differ or not from country to country, and we are pleased to be able to provide a platform for young people to engage each other across an ocean.  Second, we have spent the last year advocating for youth involvement in all things concerning their safety and well-being on the Internet and are honored to now be joined by a fantastic group of organizations who believe the same.  (See the contest site for a complete list of participating organizations.)

I think a fundamental shift has happened over just the last 12 months in how the public now views the topic of Internet safety and digital citizenship.  Sadly, tragedy after tragedy finally awakened our international consciousness to the reality of cyberbullying and how the Internet made bullies seem bigger and the victims less able to escape their aggressors.  Laws were subsequently passed.  Celebrities took it up as their cause.  It will be telling to see how people have internalized this and choose to portray it through the contest.

Over the last year, we also couldn’t escape the topic of online privacy: who violates it, why we sometimes willingly give it up, and who’s responsible for protecting it.  Cybercriminals were not shy about exploiting people on social networks, but people flocked to them regardless.  I believe there are generational differences in how we view privacy in an online world, and it will be interesting to see how this topic is addressed by the contestants.

And last, the predicted ubiquity of the smart phone, more of which are ending up in younger hands, finally came to be.  It became more common for a 10-year old to have one.  Misuse of the camera through sexting and harassment made the headlines.  Apps arrived with frightening speed to app stores, without any way of knowing which ones were legitimate.  Geo-location services entered the scene and we are just beginning to grasp their benefits (I know where my kids are) and risks (and so does everyone else).  What lessons have people learned about using such a small, yet powerful device wisely?

These are a few of the reasons why we selected the categories we did for this year’s “What’s Your Story?” video contest: Being a good online citizen, Using a mobile phone wisely, and Maintaining online privacy.  

We will award one grand prize of US$10,000 and 6 runner-up prizes of US$500 each for the best 3 schools in each category and the best 3 individual entries in each category.  Entries can be submitted starting today until April 5.

I speak on behalf of all of the organizations involved in this year’s “What’s Your Story?” Internet safety video contest when I say this is a unique contest that is by design a vehicle for young people to engage their peers on some of the most critical topics they must deal with in an Internet-connected world.  We want first and foremost to empower them to be active participants in encouraging the safe and responsible use of the Internet.

We believe they are up to the challenge.  And we look forward to once again seeing their stories.

To see more contest information, including contest rules and last year’s winners, go to

And follow the contest on Twitter @WYS2011.

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.