5 June 2021
By Mary Bermingham
2020 has cemented its place in history with the most unwelcome arrival of Covid-19, and the havoc it wreaked on our nation, with lockdown, isolation, restrictions and closures among the most used words over the past 12 months. Now, as we finally begin to emerge from this global pandemic, we reflect on how we successfully navigated the past year and what tools we relied on in this ‘new normal’. Among the biggest heroes – the internet! Celebrating its 10th year, Trend Micro’s What’s Your Story? annual video competition posed a very fitting question to Ireland’s youth, ‘How did the internet help you get through this past year?’
Leaders in cloud security, Trend Micro’s What’s Your Story? competition is an annual highlight in their Internet Safety for Kids & Families (ISKF) programme. It is designed to give young people a platform to educate themselves and others on responsible use of the internet and to nurture this safe space. Aimed at primary and secondary school students there are five competition categories; Overall Winner, Group Category 8 -12 years, Individual Category 8 – 12 years, Group Category 13+ and Individual Category 13+. Entrants were required to submit a max 2minute video in answer to the competition question, and then become advocates for their message, encouraging their peers, friends, family and communities to view and vote for their entry. Not only did these children have to come up with the concept for their submission, but they also had to film and edit it – with amazing creativity and skills coming to the fore.
Featuring a quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet to summarise the roll the internet played in their lives last year, ‘I could be bound in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space’, it was Anna Keyes, Amy O’Brien, Eleanore Robb and Alannah Wyrnn from YMCA Cork who were crowned overall competition winners. In just two minutes they demonstrated how technology was intertwined in all of their individual interests from learning guitar with the assistance of YouTube tutorials to cooking along to Instagram lives. Commenting on their winning submission Alannah says, “It got personal. Lockdown allowed us the time to focus on our own personal needs and the internet was a huge support for personal development, growth and friendship”. While for Anna and Amy, it was the fostering of friendships which stood out most, “The internet allowed us to find like-minded people where we could learn and broaden our views on so many things that we are passionate about”.
Speaking at the winners’ announcement Trend Micro’s What’s Your Story? Global Programme Manager, Avril Ronan, commented, “This competition is always a fan favourite among our Internet Safety for Kids & Families community, but this year we were absolutely blown away by the sheer volume and creativity of the entries. This past year, we have needed the internet more than ever – to work, connect, shop, educate, entertain and so much more. So, for us this year’s competition question ‘How Did The Internet Helped You Get Through This Past Year?’ was a no-brainer.
“What is amazing about our overall winners this year, is that before the cheque presentation they had never met in person before. The students from Ballydehob, Mitchelstown, Dunmanway and Carrigaline joined YMCA last year, where they met online. Our increased dependence on the internet this past year has created some challenges, but also great opportunities. In the case of these talented young people, they showed the world how the internet has positively impacted their lives and literally brought them together.”
Commenting with pride and excitement on their win YMCA’s TJ Hourihan says,
“I am beyond proud of Anna, Elenore, Alannah, Amy and our wider YMCA community who showcased such strength and resilience over the last 12 months. The Covid experience has taught us that the internet allows us to connect more frequently, it’s more environmentally friendly and cost efficient. Many of our youth members are located in very remote parts of the country so while it will be important to meet face to face post Covid, virtual meet ups will still play an important role for us moving forward.”
This year’s judging panel was comprised of representatives from CyberSafeKids, PDST/Webwise, Facebook, Science Foundation Ireland/Smart Futures, Twitter and Young Irish Film Makers. This group were tasked with the extremely difficult decision of selecting the category winners who received €1,000 each, with €4,000 going to overall competition winners YMCA Cork. There were also three Critics Choice Awards who each received €300. One of these Critics Choice Award recipients, Roisin Leavy – from Limerick, labelled the internet as Superhuman. She says during lockdown the internet became her private tutor, entertainer and therapist…retail therapist!
For many the internet was not just a nice to have, it was critical in order to stay connected and continue vital work in the community. This was very much the case for Group Category 13+ winners Down Syndrome Cork, Field of Dreams. Paul Ahern, Down Syndrome Cork Tutor comments, “The internet, through Zoom, allowed Down Syndrome Cork’s Field of Dreams to continue to engage with our students during lockdown. We have a range of programmes including Work Skills and Literacy & Technology. We were able to continue classes with our students one, two and even three days a week. These classes were particularly important as many of our adults faced a reduction in other services, many lost employment and many missed out on much needed interaction with their friends as they had to stay safe at home. At first, we were unsure how it would go. In the beginning it was new for all of us. Thankfully, with the commitment of our students, and their parents, it exceeded our expectations. Our students quickly became experts! As you will see from our video entry we all learned a lot, had fun and most importantly, we stayed connected.”
Overall Winner (Prize – €4,000)
Things that bring us joy 13+ years – Anna Keyes – Amy O’Brien , Eleanore Robb -, Alannah Wyrnn – YMCA Cork
Category Winners (Prize – €1,000 each)
Group Category 8-12 years: The School Around The Corner -St. Josephs NS, Ballyheigue, Kerry
Individual Category 8-12 years: My Simple Song – Aisling O’Dwyer -, Castelmaine, Kerry
Group Category 13+: Staying Connected – Down Syndrome Cork, Field Of Dreams
Individual Category 13+: My Day the New Digital Way – The King Family, Co Westmeath
Critics Choice Winners (Prize €300 each)
It’s a long Story – Niks Leo Ziemelis – & Jesse Ryan -, Wexford
The Internet My Superhuman – Roisin Leavy-, Limerick
My Life With and Without The Internet – Saoirse Hyland -, Kilkenny
Group Category 8-12 Our Lockdown Story – Sensory Stage School, Dramarama, Cork
As more and more children turn to the internet to learn and grow, it is Trend Micro’s mission to keep this a safe space. To date, Trend Micro Internet Safety for Kids & Families volunteers and partners are active in more than a dozen countries, and have hosted and supported over 3,000 events at more than 10,000 schools which have positively impacted almost 3 million children, parents, and teachers worldwide. Trend Micro webinars, which are available on demand, include topics such as Raising Gamers: Teaching Kids to Play to Safe, Social Media & Our Kids’ Lens of the World, Kids & Autism: Supporting Safe & Healthy Technology Use and How to Handle Bullying When We’re Always Online.