by Lynette Owens

For the last 3 years, we’ve been asking young people across the US and Canada to tell us in 2 minutes or less their stories about safe, responsible technology use.  They’ve responded with enthusiasm and creativity;  they’ve entertained and moved us.

Our contest themes have varied each year: from online privacy to bullying to keeping online information safe.  Each time, we’ve seen a range of responses: how social networks are used, how cell phones are misused, or how bullying makes people feel and act, for better or worse.

This year, we’re sticking to the format that’s worked so well so far.  We hope to again see more inventive storytelling on film.  We’d like contestants to continue using social media to spread their message.  And we’re ready to give out some very big cash prizes again.

But this year, we’ve changed a few things – hopefully for the better.

More Than Online Safety

Today marks the 10th anniversary of Safer Internet Day.  2013 also brings Trend Micro’ s 25th anniversary and 5th anniversary of our Internet Safety for Kids and Families program. What better time to make a shift in the direction of our annual contest? 

But there are deeper reasons for the changes, beyond the convenience of the calendar.

In the world of online safety, it’s hard to avoid conversations about risks, prevention, and the cost of being unaware.   We should absolutely be teaching kids how to use technology in ways that will keep the bad things  and bad people away.  But we can’t end the conversation there.  Talking about safety alone is not enough.  We don’t raise our kids just to be safe people.  We raise them hoping they’ll one day be safe and responsible, happy, productive, successful  people, too.  Online or off.

In their work titled Online Safety 3.0: Empowering and Protecting Youth, Anne Collier and Larry Magid of Connectsafely (judges for this year’s contest) write “Like the anonymous quote, ‘peace is more than just the absence of war,’ Internet Safety 3.0 is more than just the absence of danger… It includes finding ways to use technology for learning, collaboration, professional development, community building, civic engagement, and interacting with others.  It’s encouraging children and teenagers to thrive in and through their use of technology.“  We agree. 

What’s Your Story? has always been exactly about this.  It encourages youth agency.  It promotes the positive use of technology (video-making and connecting through social networks).  But what it hadn’t done until now was encourage a discussion beyond “the absence of war.”  We wanted to change that.

What To Do vs. What Not To Do

We believe that for every negative news story about kids, technology and ensuing mayhem, there are many more opposing examples.  We just don’t hear about them.  This year, we want to see and hear about how people, particularly the youngest of us, are being great at being online.  This year, the What’s Your Story? contestants just need to answer one question: What does the good side of the Internet look like?

Being great at being online can mean a lot of things.  It can mean being safe.  It can mean being responsible.  It can mean doing both and more.  It can happen when  texting, tweeting, friending, gaming, blogging, shopping, sharing photos, or finding music.

Ultimately, we believe this is a better way to help others be safe, responsible, successful users of technology.  Let’s move beyond telling them what not to do, a theme that pervades most messaging directed at youth on the Internet.  Instead, let’s provide the stage and let them show others what works, what’s possible.  We hope that these stories of smart, creative, safe, responsible, productive uses of the Internet might encourage and inspire others to do the same. 

Youth market research firm YPulse recently wrote about the attitudes and beliefs of millennials (those born between 1982 and 2004) that “there is huge momentum to pay it forward lately, and pass on positivity.  Millennials are eager to participate in this chain reaction and exhibit acts of kindness.”

We believe this.  In fact, we’re banking $20,000+ on it.

For more information about this year’s What’s Your Story? contest, theme, prizes, rules, and deadlines, go to:

And follow contest updates on Twitter @TrendISKF and @lynettetowens

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.