By Lynette Owens

Since 2010, we have been running our annual “What’s Your Story?” video contest as a way to engage young people in a conversation on a wide range of topics about life online.  We see it is a way to give them a platform that allows them to express exactly what they think, see, and experience each day and as an opportunity for us to sit back and listen.  Every year, without doubt, we are amazed by their creativity, mastery of video creation, and perceptions and are enriched by the insight they give us into their life experiences which are so intimately entwined with the internet.

The “What’s Your Story?” contest asks students in the U.S. and Canada to submit a short video which answers a specific question.  Contestants can compete in either the individual or school categories, and a grand prize of $10,000 is awarded in each category.  Finalists are selected based on a combination of views and ratings, so all contestants are encouraged not only to create their entry, but to be advocates of their own messages.  A panel of judges then selects the winners from a group of 20 finalists.

When we began planning this year’s contest, we were faced with an interesting question: what should the theme be for this year?  The challenge every year is to select a theme that is relevant to the current environment.  This year was particularly intriguing as there was one topic dominating the headlines and conversations about the internet’s current state: fake news.

Staying Relevant

The mistake we can sometimes make, and which we wanted to avoid, was to assume that a topic of interest and importance to adults was in fact the same for young people.  Was fake news something they were experiencing or being largely impacted by?  Or was there something else?  How could we focus the contest to shine a light on what is really going on at this moment for young people, without leading them too much?

We did make one assumption: that the internet is imperfect.  But we also felt that its faults and weaknesses might actually be different depending on whom you asked.  So instead, we posed the question: “If you could change one thing about the internet, what would you change?”

The answers this year were not only well thought out and well produced, but covered a wide range of topics. The majority of submissions focused on the concept of civility and kindness, or the lack thereof online.  Many students, including the School grand prize winner “Eye Message” (pictured left) attempted to address this, longing for people to abandon cowardice and rudeness behind a screen and own up to every text as if the recipient were right in front of you.  In the same vain, some students also touched on the issue of social media and its role in encouraging a lack of authenticity among people, evidenced in entries like #TAKEOFFTHEMASK.

Privacy and security were also topics of concern, as young people seem to be increasingly aware of how little they have of it on the internet; entries such as “Internet Safety Rules!” and honorable mention “Terms and Conditions” took humorous approaches to this topic.  And lastly, while we were unsure of its impact on youth, the topic of misinformation or fake news did in fact make its way into a handful of entries, including this year’s Individual Category grand prize winner “The Speed of Impulse” (see right).

Well-deserved Congrats

We would like to congratulate this year’s winners, finalists, and all of this year’s contestants.  There were so many fantastic entries; unfortunately, only a few could be named finalists.  We would also like to extend our thanks to the members of our judging panel for helping us make the difficult decision of selecting the 6 winners.

The 2017 “What’s Your Story?” video contest winners are:

Grand Prize Winners in the individual and school categories – each will receive $10,000

  • The Speed of Impulse” by Chris Allison (featuring Keanu Ross-Cabrera), student at Columbia University, New York, NY
  • Eye Message” by Yvanna R. and Emily C., Sycamore High School, Cincinnati, OH

Individual Winners – each will receive $1,000

  • Internet Safety Rules!” by Alexis Latimore, Seminole State College of Florida, Sanford, FL
  • Face to Face” by Ryan P. and Larson M., Huntington Beach HS, Huntington Beach, CA

School Winners – each will receive $1,000

  • Reveal All” by Sophia D. and Celeste R., The Meadowbrook School, Weston, MA
  • #TAKEOFFTHEMASK” by Elizabeth I. & Grace F., Visitation Academy, St. Louis, MO

A list of all winners, finalists, and honorable mentions can be seen at

The 2018 “What’s Your Story?” video contest will launch in early 2018, so stay tuned for more information.

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.