When did your organization launch and why?
The Trend Micro Internet Safety for Kids & Families program was launched in 2008. It was established to support the company’s vision of creating a world safe for the exchange of digital information, and strives to extend that vision to the world’s youngest citizens. It is a philanthropic program from a large, global company that has been around since 1998.
While the company’s core competence and business is in understanding digital security risks and preventing people from the harm that can be caused by hackers, identity thieves, and other cybercrime, we have always understood that technology alone cannot protect us. A more informed population coupled with the right security technology is the best answer to staying safe online.
When we began the program, we saw a trend in younger and younger kids having access to the Internet and digital media. That access was happening because of school-driven needs, wider adoption of social networks, cheaper technology ending up in more homes, and a wider range of mobile devices that were more kid-friendly. We also recognized that the pace of this access was happening faster than that of the education needed for kids to use these technologies in ways that were safe and responsible. We felt we needed to do something about this, and our program was born.
What does your organization do? What are its main goals? Main projects?
Our goal is to help young people and those who raise them to use technology in ways that are safe, responsible and successful. We do this in three ways. The first is through direct advocacy and engagement with the public. We help our employees volunteer their time in their communities to educate parents and students on what it means to be a great digital citizen. Second, we collaborate with many great organizations (both for and non-profit) on a number of activities and initiatives. Third, we bring to bear our own technical expertise in ways that help us accomplish our mission and help kids and families use technology safely, responsibly and successfully.
What makes your organization stand out? What would you say is the most unique thing about Trend Micro?
I think one thing that makes us very unique is that we are not simply a corporation handing out grants to others to do the work. We are also not just talking about how to bridge the education gap between what kids and families need to know and what they actually know. Lastly, we do not believe this is a cause that any one organization can serve alone. We spend an enormous amount of our time and energy out in communities doing grassroots education ourselves. It keeps us in touch with what is really happening; we learn from the young people, the families and schools we come in contact with. To date, we have directly reached almost half a million students, parents and teachers in many countries around the world. In many cases we have done this in various ways with other organizations who provide their expertise or their established relationships with the communities we are trying to impact. You can judge by our actions, not just our words, that we are sincerely trying to accomplish a huge and important mission.
What are recent projects or new resources that your organization would like to share with other NAMLE members?
One of our most popular and successful initiatives is the What’s Your Story? Campaign, which began in 2010.
What’s Your Story? is a user-generated video contest that empowers youth to be leaders in educating others about the safe and responsible use of the Internet. The contest is unique in that it offers participants the opportunity to create and share messages with a far-reaching audience through various social media platforms and promotional activities. The campaign is designed to give youth a voice in the conversation while showcasing a positive use of social media.
This year’s contest is currently in progress. The deadline for submissions is April 21, 2015. More information on rules, prizes, and past winners can be found at whatsyourstory.trendmicro.com.
What are the connections between the work of your organization and media literacy? Why is media literacy important to you?
More than ever before, the media our kids are exposed to are no longer only created by professional organizations for them to passively consume; young people are increasingly taking on the role of active producer, creating their own media for a wide range of purposes: for schoolwork, for entertainment, for connection to others.
In online safety education directed towards youth, we talk a lot about the role of the Internet, in particular social media and the risks, responsibilities and opportunities presented to all of us. I believe those working in online safety education should become better aware of the great media literacy education work already happening in schools and communities to educate young people about how to critically view, consume, and analyze all forms of media, especially those they find online. At the same time, aligning media literacy education more closely with the current information about online safety could also greatly benefit both worlds.
We hope to play a role in bridging those connections and doing it soon. Our kids need all of us to do this.