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By Bruce Sussman
Fri | Dec 20, 2019 | 5:15 AM PST

Hello and welcome to SecureWorld Behind the Scenes, our exclusive interview series.

In this edition, SecureWorld's web conference host Tom Bechtold  interviews Lynette Owens, Founder and Global Director of Trend Micro's Internet Safety For Kids and Families (ISFK) program.

She explains what this program is about, offers practical advice on how you and your children can work together to stay safer online, and shares news of a contest that could be worth $10,000 to both your child and their school.

Keeping kids safe online: initiative started by a cybersecurity company

Trend Micro has more than 6,000 employees and is the largest independent cloud security company in the world. You may know this.

But did you know the company has reached more than 2.5 million parents, educators, and students across the globe as part of its Internet Safety For Kids and Families program?

Listen to our complete interview with Lynette Owens, ISKF Global Director, or read excerpts of our interview below.

Keeping kids safe online: the interview

[Tom Bechtold, SecureWorld]  For our listeners, viewers, and readers, Trend Micro is a household name when it comes to securing the organization. But some will be surprised by this initiative. Would you share a little bit about the program as it stands today? What exactly is underway?

[Lynette Owens, Trend Micro]  Absolutely. The program, which we lovingly called ISKF, much easier to say, is an initiative that we started over 11 years ago. The program is now active in about 19 countries around the world. And we've reached, as you had said earlier, more than two and a half million parents, teachers, and kids in this program.

The purpose of the program is actually to help educate young people and all of those who care for and educate them, about the safe, responsible, and smart uses of technology.

We do this in a number of ways. The first is by sending Trend Micro volunteers into their communities, schools, parent nights, and multiple other venues where we are directly in contact with our audiences to help educate about a lot of issues—from securing your information to protecting your privacy to how you behave towards others online, and also about great uses of technology. We also partner with a lot of programs and nonprofit organizations and other third parties help reach those audiences.

And finally, we're doing a lot even within our own technology initiatives in ways that we feel really benefit young people today. One of those ways is improving features in our products that could help parents manage and monitor and ensure that their own kids at home are safe and using technology responsibly under their own roof. So those are some examples of the way that this program actually manifests itself towards that mission of helping kids be safe, responsible, and smart online.

[Bechtold]  Let's back up for just a second, I guess, about 11 years back. Help us understand how the program got started and why. And how does it fit within the mission of a cybersecurity company that's looking to, help enterprise level people?

[Owens]  Great question. And really, it's what I love to reflect on. So there's both a personal and a professional side to answer this. I'll start with the short one, which is personal.

As a parent myself, and also one of many parents within Trend Micro, and really many parents among the organizations we work with, we wear those two hats. We are people who work in the industry, but we're also people who go home and have young people to raise and feed under our own roof. So I had a great interest in it personally. Because it was really around this time 11 years ago that technologies like smartphones really were just beginning. And social networks weren't really a widely used or known platform at all for vast audiences.

I think those kinds of evolutions are the beginnings of those things that were of great interest to us as an organization. And thinking, what impact could this have on the youngest people in the world?

And then the other part of your question professionally is that, really, this is well within our corporate mission, our corporate vision, and that is to create a world safe for the exchange of digital information. And very simply, if the world were our target audience, then that had to include the world's youngest citizens. And so very simply, our goal with ISKF is to extend that vision to the world's youngest citizens.

One day, these youngest citizens would be users of the very technology we're trying to protect people on and with. One day, those world's youngest citizens might become potential workers in the cybersecurity community. Even a potential person working at Trend Micro someday. And one day, those young people would also be the leaders deciding how we could continue a world that was safer exchanging digital information.

So really, there was the personal side of just becoming a parent and being very interested in it, but but on a professional side, it's very much in line with our vision as a company to extend what we do to the world's youngest citizens.

I was having a conversation with somebody else prior to us talking, and I think the other thing I've learned over the decade is this generation coming up now, they call themselves Gen Z, and there will be another name for the ones that follow them.

We have turned the corner and there's no going back. But the expectation that corporations are doing more than just exchanging goods and services for money, we are not going back.

There is a high expectation that companies, brands, this becomes part of who they are and what they do. You need to be doing more than just exchanging goods and services for money. You are, you know, leaving also some positive impact in your communities, on the planet, in the world in some way. And also internally for your own employees, that they feel very good about and motivated to stay with an organization that is doing much more than just, you know, trying to make money.

This is why actually we've been able to persist. And I'm really proud to say that of many other cybersecurity companies who dabbled in this very topic, we've been pretty consistent for the last 11 years. And it's no surprise that by being consistent, and really investing in it, year after year after year, it can grow exponentially.

[Bechtold]  That actually leads to my next question. Let's talk about practicalities. The cybersecurity leaders in our audience are really concerned with privacy as a means of helping themselves and their families stay more secure. They tell me that sometimes it seems easier to secure the enterprise than it does the home front. I get it because as the dad of two kids, they've never met a social media app they don't like. Can you unpack some best practices for keeping the home front private?

[Owens]  I think that the first thing that anyone could do if they're responsible for a young person, whether it's your own child or a nephew or a neighbor, is to help them understand the minute that they have the opportunity and the access to be on the internet: welcome to your public life.

I think instilling this concept into a young person's mind very early on—and even anyone of any age who's getting online for the first time—is a great launching pad because it gives you a lens to start thinking about what you're doing once you get there. But I think there are some very practical things you can do beyond just sort of planting the seed that as soon as you're online.

As parents or as people who are responsible for younger people in their own home, you know, set them up to be successful, and that means you've got to take a little bit of time.

If you're going to hand them a really expensive device, and then allow them from there to get on to platforms that subsist by collecting information and exchanging that information for money, then I think setting them up to be successful and doing things like being aware of the features of privacy available to you.

Use the privacy settings, use them to the extent that you're most protected but still allows you to use the app or the device in the ways that you want to. You need to also make sure that young people are aware of the way that their information and even their actions are being used by others. So they should really think about what they're putting out there or doing with technology in the first place before they do it.

I think finally, you've got to also make sure that you're having a conversation with them early, and often. These apps that you talk about, these apps that your kids gravitate to, experiment with, adopt with lightning speed, you are always trying to stay on top of which one is next that might catch fire. It's really important because you can't predict what they're going to be doing and what's going to come out next, to have these conversations early and often with your kids.

I think also, with regard to privacy in particular, we talk to kids a lot about not just protecting their own privacy, but also respecting other people's privacy. And I think if we can help kids understand that privacy isn't just something of our own to protect, but also something we need to acknowledge other people have the right to. We have to set good examples ourselves.

And I think that parents sometimes feel a little bit out of their comfort zone because there are a lot of those apps and technologies that kids can master faster than they can. So it's okay then to ask kids sometimes what they think, even for their help.

I know it sounds a little bit like reversing roles. But in our experience, kids are really excited to talk about technology and they want to turn to parents for help when they need it. But they sometimes feel like they can't because they think we don't know enough to help them. So I think by learning together, by having this conversations very early and very often, and making the world of technology a normal part of your everyday conversations, the better we all are.

[Bechtold]  One last question for you. I understand you have an annual contest underway right now where kids could win thousands of dollars in prizes from Trend Micro. Could you tell us about that? And then how would kids enter this?

[Owens]  The contest is actually one that we've had in place in the U.S. and Canada for about 10 years now. The name of it is, "What's Your Story?"

The purpose of this contest was two-fold. It began because what we noticed a decade ago, and really even still today, is that we adults who often fret about the well-being of young people online, trying to solve these problems—either through new technologies, or policies legislation, or just shaming and criticizing the technology companies that could do better to protect them—that all of these conversations were often missing a voice.

And that voice was of young people. The very people we were trying to protect, we were not including them in those conversations.

And wouldn't it be a great idea to see what they had to say about the best way that they might want to invest in, encourage, and institute safe and responsible use of the internet? That's why we started the contest; we want to really hear what they had to say.

Typically, we ask them to answer it [the question of the year] in a video format. But in some parts of the world where we run this contest, the kids are answering it in other ways, like drawings. And we also want you to become a great messenger of that. So how do you have a great answer, but also be a great messenger at the same time? And so we care about the degree to which they promote their own work.

This year, the question we hope that kids will answer is different from every other year, and that is: if the internet were to disappear today, what would your life be like?

In the past, we've often asked questions that had to do with the existence of the internet. You know, what would you do to protect yourself and your privacy? What would you do to be a better digital citizen? If you could rebuild the internet, how would you rebuild it? But this time, we decided to ask what your life would be like in its absence.

So any students in K through 12 and even beyond—as long as you're a student in the U.S. or Canada who's interested in potentially winning up to $10,000 for themselves and for their schools—would go to to find more information about the contest, the deadlines, and how to enter. 

[Bechtold]  Well, thank you so much, Lynette. I definitely appreciate you you sharing with us on Behind the Scenes today. I hope everybody out there that's listening today or reading our interview will take a look at it.

ISKF annual contest:
ISKF homepage: