This year was a wonderful departure – and I think trendsetter – not only for Trend Micro’s “What’s Your Story?” video contest but for Internet safety education as a whole. It asked filmmakers to show us what “the good side of the Internet looks like” to them. There are two grand prize winners, a school and individuals: “The Legend of the Responsible Gamer,” by Ripley Union Lewis Huntington High School in Ripley, Ohio (led by teacher Patty Ream), and “I’m an Educated Dude,” by Saad Sifate, George Strawbridge, and David Oladejo, of Ottawa, Ontario (please see this page in the contest site for all the winners, including the runners up).
What struck me most as a judge watching the video by Saad, George and David is how they captured, in lyrics, a conclusion of some of the world’s top youth online risk researchers after six years of surveying tens of thousands of young people in some two dozen countries for six years, the EU Kids Online researchers.
The Canadian winners’ video went beyond speaking to both the positive and negative sides of the Internet to touching on an aspect of humanity that the Internet itself is bringing into stark relief: that negative experiences are sometimes portals to positive outcomes. Toward the end of their two-minute video-poem, we hear, “Give an immature teenager education and create an adult. Communicate with the bully and observe the opposite result. The Internet is a composite, and the parts that are negative are what can truly make a positive.”
In 2011, the EU researchers wrote in their 2011 final report that “opportunities and risks online go hand in hand…. Most activities children do online can be beneficial or harmful, depending on the circumstances…. Resilient children are able to tackle adverse situations in a problem-focused way, and to transfer negative emotions into positive (or neutral) feelings.”
Very much like life – in fact mirroring it to a growing degree – the Internet “is a composite,” this year’s winners wisely tells us. They’re building on the fine work of last year’s grand-prize winners, Mark Eshleman and Tyler Joseph in Ohio, who literally drew a line on concrete and challenged viewers to choose the plus or minus side. But it’s not a simple binary, research and three young Canadians tell us. Nobody’s looking for negative experiences, nobody’s advocating for the minus side, but what EU Kids Online, MediaSmarts research in Canada, and so many young Internet users show us, when we pay attention, is that people often learn from or are made stronger through trial and error – and sometimes just trial. Resilience doesn’t come from avoiding risk (which is not the same thing as harm), another EU Kids Online report said early this year. “Resilience can only develop through exposure to risks or stressful events. Consequently, as children learn how to adequately cope with (online) adversities, they develop (online) resilience.”
Congratulations to all of the “What’s Your Story” winners!