Are we taking cyberbullying seriously enough?

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The internet and social media have grown at lightening speed. Today, our children are born as digital natives (those who can’t recall a time without the internet) and most of us use Facebook, Twitter and other networks daily. But, with the rise of the networks, we have also seen the rise of cyberbullying.

What are children saying about cyberbullying?

In the “Net Children Go Mobile” a UK report funded by the EU, it’s outlined that 21% of children aged 9-16 reported being bullied. This is a 2013 report and since then numbers have increased with more children being exposed to social media.

Children aged 10-18 were asked earlier this year in an Internetmatter.org survey in the UK whether social media companies take bullying seriously enough. Half said they don’t.

The stats are startling. As parents, teachers and guardians of our children, we have to find a better way to keep our children safe online.

Fundamental issues

There are fundamental issues that have to be addressed to find the solution. The initial one is taking a close look at the existing social networks and how they safeguard children. It is done in quite a straightforward way: an age limit is set (generally in the early teens) under which a child should not be able to have an account. These age limits are quickly bypassed and suddenly children are exposed to adult content (jokes, violence, sexual references etc).

This takes us right to the next issue. Children are exposed to social networks without any learning curve. Think about learning how to ride a bike. Before you let your child cycle on the road, you help him or her learn how to cycle safely with stabilisers and then move on to the next step when your child is ready. When it comes to social media, children are thrown right in the deep end.

Once in the deep end, children emulate others. Considering the volume of negative and throw-away comments, it is easy to see how children can quickly replicate this behaviour and see it as the norm on social.

Changing how we approach social media

Social media is a fantastic resource for all of us. We can stay in touch with friends and family far and wide, receive the freshest news and the occasional chuckle. This is what our children should experience. To make this happen, we need to change the approach we take to social media and start teaching our children.

It is difficult for children to understand how a comment sent and seen without body language can be interpreted as hurtful. They are not aware of this impact. This awareness needs to come from home and school where children already learn how to behave in the real world. These same rules should apply online where etiquette of being nice, please & thank you, and not hurting others verbally should be just the same as in the offline space.

It is unlikely that the large social networks will be able to do this. The simple reason, their platforms are built for adults not children.

Our suggested approach is simple;
1. Integrate social media and online behaviour into primary schools’ curriculums
2. Make conversations at home about social media easier through shared resources
3. Allow children to learn social media in a safe, monitored and fun environment just for them.

CyberSmarties helps teachers and parents teach better social etiquette to children while providing a social network just for kids. Just like the other social networks it is free. But, unlike others, it performs child authentication, combats bullying through technology and teaches positive behaviour online through unique behavioural technology.

CyberSmarties is simple to set up in your school. When you sign up, we contact you to discuss your school’s needs and how you can get everyone involved:

Click here it to Sign Up

Are we taking cyberbullying seriously enough? was originally published on Cybersmarties Blog

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Uprise Festival and CyberSmarties

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Wenqian Xu
System Administrator of Cybersmarties Ltd.

Last Thursday, CyberSmarties team took the early train from Limerick to Dublin to attend the Uprise Festival event because we were one of the Team Ireland Pitch Battle Finalists. During the event, huge numbers of people came to our stand and showed great interest. As a technical guy, I’m the man who usually stands behind the team and is less talkative. However, that day, I was affected by the enthusiasm of all the people because I see more and more people realizing the importance of online safety for children and cyberbullying is becoming a serious issue in social media, especially for the young kids.

It’s interesting that when I briefly described CyberSmarties by saying – “CyberSmarties is the first safe educational social network for primary school kids to deal with cyberbullying”, the first reaction of people is always like “Oh, it’s great to have a social network solution to deal with cyberbullying”, then here question comes – “How can you keep children safe online?”

Most existing solutions is to create a filter to scan and block bad content on Facebook, Twitter etc. Our solution is to create a separate locked-down platform only for kids. Two reasons of not creating a standard filter are:
1) There is no 100% guarantee of any content filters to ensure they can block all bad content. If any bad images, messages, videos bypass the filter, even only one case, it still harasses and harms children and make them feel upset;
2) Social media is not only on the desktop browser, like Instagram and Snapchat, they are purely mobile apps. It is very hard for existing filters to extend their protection across multiple platforms.

So, why not create a locked-down platform just for kids and have a SMART content filter which not just picks up bad words but teaches the child why that word shouldn’t be used? This is positive education and teaches positive behaviour. Simply blocking bad words does not change behaviour. Here comes CyberSmarties. Firstly, in our current platform, only two user roles are allowed in our platform – Teachers and Student. Secondly, we authenticate each Student account as a real kid. CyberSmarties is the first social network to authenticate each child as a real child. Before our technology, there were no platforms or companies who could claim that every account is a real person on their system and more importantly that that adult is not posing as a child. Lastly, we hold the zero-tolerance policy in our platform which means when any cyberbullying cases occur, the person who did cyberbullying will be knocked off the system immediately.

As Diarmuid Hudner, CEO of CyberSmarties said, “There is nothing wrong with social media, kids just haven’t been shown how to use it properly.” So, we created Behavioural Technology including SMART Content Filter Module, Emotional Flag Report Module, Reward Module, I’m Feeling Sad Module etc. to teach positive behaviour to kids. We also have a Guidebook which is integrated with the SPHE curriculum for teachers to help them educate their students. We noticed that currently, the common way of schools to teacher cyber safety is to have someone come to the school and give a talk for one day on Cyber Safety. However, not only is this a one-off talk, does not use technology though the kids are using technology, but it is similar to the difference between the driving theory test and the practical test. You can’t drive well with only knowing the theory of how to drive. You need to practice on the road, make mistakes, learn from them and improve. It’s the same with learning cyber safety. Kids will very easily forget what they learnt from a talk, they need practice and regular practice. So, here comes CyberSmarites. Kids can learn how to protect themselves online in our safe locked-down controlled system. Our research with Cybersmarties found that students in 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th class in primary schools will form good behavioural habits and abandon bad behaviour. Cybersmarties works, positive behavioural habits are instilled very quickly and because everything on the site is positive then instances of negative behaviour are negligible. Only in this way will the future generation of users on social media use it differently than how it is used today and begin to shift positivity into the mainstream.

Last but not least, recently if you noticed our loading page, you will find that our link has changed from http://cybersmarties.com to https://cybersmarties.com which is the same prefix as many bank websites etc. because we implement HTTPS to our services. HTTPS is a protocol for secure communication over the internet. However, you can still visit us via the previous link because it will direct to our new link automatically. Above all, CyberSmarties team always keeps updating and adds more features to protect our kids and eliminate cyberbullying.

Thanks a million for your time of reading my blog. Hope to see you next time.

Uprise Festival and CyberSmarties was originally published on Cybersmarties Blog

The Times, They are a Changin

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Diarmuid Hudner
CEO of Cybersmarties Ltd.

“Time: the indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole”

I am not sure if any of you have noticed the sunsets this October. Perhaps because of the cold, dry weather we are experiencing they have been more visible and thus I have taken more notice of them. The twinning colours of red and orange as the sun is setting over a foggy landscape of trees has been breath-taking to watch. There is something mystifying in the silence of a sunset or of a full moon when everyone is sleeping. I wonder at how many billions of people over billions of lifetimes have watched this same moon, some wishing upon it, some worshipping it but all curious about it. No matter where you are, in whatever part of the world, we all have the same view.

I wonder under the gaze of this moon, have we got the concept of time all wrong. Animals have no concept of time and therefore do not fear death. It is perhaps because they have no knowledge or concept of time that they are generally content in themselves (I use my 20 year old sheepdog “Seamus” here as an example) whereas humans are afraid of death and therefore try to pack as much into the time they believe they have left in order to believe they have not wasted the time allotted to them. This is what is called “having a good time”. For Seamus, all he has probably realised in getting older is that he can’t chase cars like he used to, female dogs don’t take any notice of him anymore, he sleeps more often and is more annoyed by the sounds of imaginary intruders (they could be there but I haven’t seen them). But if you believed that you had all the time in the world (no pun intended) you would most likely be far more content because you would not feel you had all this stuff to do because you were running out of it. After all is it not contentedness that we are all seeking. Therefore I am with Seamus on this one.

This brings me to the point of children. Children being children count their days in the number of “sleeps” until a particular event comes and this time measurement has been handed down by parents. Children under a certain age and just like Seamus, have no concept of time (I must acknowledge here that cats and other species of the animal kingdom are not excluded). They eat when they are hungry, take a nap when they are tired and play the rest of time. Sounds good to me and there seems to be a pattern arising here. My father, who is a farmer and still farming at 83, does not carry a watch except for Sunday mass, which is worn more as a fashion accessory that anything else. He has never had any concept of time. He worked outside until he was finished and if he wasn’t, it would wait for the next day. Dad was always more interested in seasons as a measuring barometer and how nature was evolving, like if berries were out late then we could expect a mild Winter. One of his pet hates was articles in the Farmers Journal by young farmers saying their grass yield was up this week by 2%. He would and does say “measuring it wont make it grow any faster, it will come up when its supposed to come up”. There is wisdom in this.

To me there is a certain natural rhythm to the world. The sun rises the sun sets, the oceans ebb and the oceans flow. We may run around trying to fit everything into an allotted time but time because it is infinite doesn’t recognise our feeble attempts at trying to control it, it just keeps on keeping on. At Cybersmarties, we want children to be children: to be allowed a safe, protected space where they are free to create and make friends because humans are creative and social creatures. When I was young (many moons and sleeps ago) we spent all day down fields, over hills, getting cut by briars and stung by nettles and it was great. I am still for all this as much as possible. But the world has changed, values have changed and how children play now is different to how I played and how children will play in the future. So if social media is a place where kids gather together nowadays, then let it be a safe place for them, where only other kids are allowed and have the TIME to be kids as long as possible. Perhaps in this way, we can maintain contentedness longer and postpone time for as long as possible.

The Times, They are a Changin was originally published on Cybersmarties Blog

Safe Educational Social Network for Kids

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Wenqian Xu
System Administrator of Cybersmarties Ltd.

The last three weeks have been quite busy for me. I went to Dublin four times in three weeks. The first time was to attend the National Finalists interview for the THINKTECH Social Innovation Fund supported by Google.org. The second time was to attend the workshop where we met other 11 finalists, exchanged some experiences of our company’s growth, listened to several experienced speakers from Google, Atlantic Bridge etc. talk about different aspects of company culture, product design, development plans, standardized workflow etc. The third time was to attend the first ever WordCamp in Belfast. I listened to many high quality speakers on different areas of technology, such as DevOps, REST API, Content Marketing, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) etc. The last time was to go into the Google EU HQ in Dublin for a meeting. That’s quite a long journey in September, isn’t it?

However, what I want to talk about in this week’s blog is social structure or social network rules. Nowadays, when people talk about social networks, Facebook is the first name which comes to mind. Few people know that originally Facebook limited membership to Harvard students, later they expanded it to higher education institutions such as Ivy League schools, then gradually opened to the public. However, it seems like Facebook is also becoming the most dangerous place to visit online because there are lots of online trolling or bullying on it, especially for young kids. Although it has an age restriction for kids under 13 in Ireland, kids themselves can easily bypass this restriction and register successfully. In fact, more and more kids are still using Facebook. As we know young kids are curious about everything, especially if it is something their parents forbid them to do. Unfortunately, the more strict parents are, the more likely kids will have a try. That’s human nature and we can’t deny it easily.

So, what can we do about this situation?

Cybersmarties offers a solution: We created a locked-down system specifically designed for kids only. Every child is authenticated as a real child. There are no adult users or adult content on it. Kids can still find their friends based on the same interests or schools. There are no real photos, no real names. There is Behavioural Technology including SMART Content Filter System, Emotional Flag Report System, Reward System, I’m Feeling Sad Button, Fully-Monitored System to help teachers teach our kids how to use social media properly and positively. As Facebook migrated the entire social experience of society and put it online, Cybersmarties is trying to migrate the entire social experience of primary school kids online. On Cybersmarties, kids can learn coding, Wellbeing courses etc at any time. They can check their Homework calendars at any time. Cybersmarties School version is strictly integrated with the SPHE curriculum in Ireland. For schools, we offer different options. On one hand, if schools want to use Cybersmarties exclusively, they can choose our Hidden School option which means this school won’t see other schools on Cybersmarties. On the other hand, if schools want to use Cybersmarties more openly, they can choose our Public School option which means they will see and interact with other schools. But we guarantee that all users on our platform are real kids in the real world.

For a social network, I suppose social structure or social network rules are the most important beyond everything else. Users can accept or reject friendship requests under normal circumstances so we decided to create something new and exclusive. For example, as I mentioned in the last paragraph, schools can choose the Hidden School option. In this option, all students in their school can only add friends from their school. Furthermore, in our Emotional Flag Report System, if Student A flag Student B for certain inappropriate sentences in the private message, because we hold a zero tolerance policy, Student B will be suspended from our platform immediately. He can’t log in our platform until his teacher educates and when happy that he/she understands why their behaviour is wrong they can easily re-activate the user. Online behaviour like all behaviour must be taught and that is why we put such an emphasis on education.
There are lots of other features on our Cybersmarties platform. Some of them I already introduced in my previous blogs, some more will be released shortly. There is very exciting news coming but I will leave that to another time but by then you will probably have read it in the papers or seen it on the news. Above all, if you are a primary school principal, teacher or parent who has kids between 7 and 12 years old, please don’t hesitate to sign up your kids on our Cybersmarties platform via the following links. Currently, we provide a 30 day free trial for a limited time only.
Sign Up for 30 days free trial: Click here to sign up
Email: info@cybersmarties.com

Or you can support us in educating the next generation of online users and keeping them safe via liking our Facebook page, following our Twitter page and subscribing to our weekly blogs to get up-to-date information on topics such as cyber-bullying and online safety.

Cybersmarties Facebook Page: Cybersmarties Page
Twitter: Cybersmarties Twitter

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog and see you next time.

Safe Educational Social Network for Kids was originally published on Cybersmarties Blog

Under The Surface

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Brendan Woodage
Operations Manager at CyberSmarties

When a problem just goes away, what are the factors involved in its disappearance? How does a problem cease to exist? The more I think about this question, the more I realise that problems don’t just disappear when ignored; they expand and multiply. A problem can only ever disappear when action is taken towards solving it.

For example, yesterday I had a toothache. The reason I had a toothache was because I have a cavity in one of my molars which I’ve continuously ignored. I know the problem will only get worse as time goes on but I choose to ignore that fact that I need to get a filling. This ignorance of problems doesn’t end with just me. We as a society also look at problems in the same light. Homelessness, Cyber Bullying, and even Mental Health and Suicide. Problems that everyone knows exists, but turn a blind eye to, expecting that they will in some way or another fix themselves.

But the reality is that problems don’t just fix themselves. My tooth will never truly get better unless I ultimately take the right action. This is the case with every other problem that each of us face. So for problems which face society, it takes a collective effort which has the goal of solving a particular issue which ultimately results in that problem being fixed. For example, on weekends, after the excitement of a night out, the streets are littered with cans, bottles, fast food waste and worse yet people wake up in the morning to find the streets are cleaned, broken glass removed. It is as if the events of the previous night never even happened. And this gets overlooked as once upon a time, these streets would have remained in the state that they were the night before. But someone (possibly everyone) had had enough of this behaviour and decided to put action into place to tackle this problem. And now we have clean streets, with the public oblivious to the work that was put in to make it this way.

A lot of the time, the simplest of actions towards getting rid of a problem make a huge difference. And quite often those actions aren’t seen, or heard. These actions happen in the background and then one day society realises that the problem is no longer there. We know the true extent of this here at CyberSmarties. From the outside looking in, CyberSmarties is a social network for primary school kids. But we didn’t create CyberSmarties with the sole intention of creating a fun and age appropriate network for kids. We created CyberSmarties with the goal of eradicating cyber bullying, promoting positive online and offline behaviour, promoting self-esteem and empathy, and all within a locked down safe space. We chose to tackle this problem with our underlying behavioural technology, our constant positive reinforcement via our What Matters section, Sentiment Analysis, SMART filter systems and other key features that are continuously active beneath the surface of our site. Messages containing negative words are prevented from being sent, gold stars are rewarded for good behaviour, and noticeable change in the students online and offline behaviour are all evident when a child uses CyberSmarties.

We saw a problem, and we’re doing our part to make sure this problem becomes a thing of the past, and hopefully one day the internet will be a kinder, and safer place for people across the world.

Under The Surface was originally published on Cybersmarties Blog

Staying true to yourself

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Brendan Woodage
Operations Manager at CyberSmarties

Social media currently co-exists with our lives. For many of us there is no boundary between real life, and the life we live online. The first thing many of us do when we wake up is reach over to our phone to see did we “miss anything” while we slept. However, one of the truest aspects of social media is that it gives us the opportunity to portray ourselves in the light that we want to be portrayed. Shy people can be outspoken, rich people can flaunt their wealthy lifestyles, and your everyday Joe like me can share moments in our everyday lives. We can choose to be smart, funny or provocative, and we can let our followers, friends, and family believe that the “you” that they see on social media, is the “real you”.

However, in my opinion, this ability to craft yourself into your ideal version of yourself online is not actually one of social media’s benefits, but one of social media’s greatest pitfalls. For those who have a strong sense of identity offline, this isn’t much of an issue, but for many of us who don’t, social media can distort our own identities and have damning effects on our mental health as we attempt to recreate this online idealistic version of ourselves offline.

In one of my favourite books – Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone, Harry Potter stumbles across a mirror in an abandoned classroom. The mirror in question is called the Mirror of Erised, in which your refection, according to Albus Dumbledore (Harry’s Head Master), shows the “deepest, most desperate desire of our hearts.” Even the name “Erised” is “desire” spelled backwards, as if reflected in a mirror. When someone looks at this mirror (being in the magical world of Harry Potter) it not only shows your reflection, but also displays the reflection of the version of you that you most desire.
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“Can you think of what the Mirror of Erised shows us all?” Harry shook his head.

“Let me explain. The happiest man on earth would be able to use the Mirror of Erised like a normal mirror, that is, he would look into it and see himself exactly as he is. Does that help.”

Harry thought. Then he said slowly, “It shows us what we want… whatever we want…”

“Yes and no,” said Dumbledore quietly.

“It shows us nothing more or less than the deepest, most desperate desire of our hearts. You, who have never known your family, see them standing around you. Ronald Weasley, who has always been overshadowed by his brothers, sees himself standing alone, the best of all of them. However, this mirror will give us neither knowledge or truth. Men have wasted away before it, entranced by what they have seen, or been driven mad, not knowing if what it shows is real or even possible.

I believe that social media carries a huge resemblance to the Mirror of Erised. When we look at social media, we only ever see other people’s desired reflections of themselves, and only portray the version of ourselves that we want people to see. And unfortunately it is actually a common case where you can see so much of someone online, and believe that you understand and know this person and then when you meet them in person (offline) they may seem like a different person to the one you thought you knew. And that is because they have crafted this image of themselves, carefully selecting what characteristics, traits and appearance they want you to see, without entirely being true to themselves.

And unfortunately, many of us waste away behind the screen, crafting this ideal version of ourselves online, ignoring the fact that it is the offline version of you that matters. This online version of you should not be a goal, target, or indicator of your social standing. Your online identity should reflect your offline identity and not the other way around.

So this week, my blog is actually a plea. I urge anyone who is reading this to do just one thing. Be true to yourself both online and offline. Your identity is yours alone and it is your actions both online and offline which defines you. We here at CyberSmarties believe that if social media is used incorrectly, it can not only effect your happiness, but it can have lasting negative repercussions on your mental health and wellbeing, but you can also lose touch with your true identity in pursuit of a better one. So be yourself, and don’t chase a desired image of yourself that you believe will be most liked by others. And don’t be fooled by everyone else’s online personalities either. Social media is the real Mirror of Erised, and as Albus Dumbledore advised Harry,

“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”

Staying true to yourself was originally published on Cybersmarties Blog

Technology for Wellbeing

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Wenqian Xu
System Administrator of Cybersmarties Ltd.

The definition of wellbeing seems very simple. According to Wikipedia, wellbeing is defined as “The state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy”. But wellbeing in reality is very difficult to define. On the other hand, approaches to achieving wellbeing are various; there are millions of ways to achieve wellbeing. In this blog, I would like to talk about the impact of technology to wellbeing and efforts Cybersmarties have made so far.

I always believe that technology itself makes no sense unless it is combined with real life. Actually, technology originally comes from real life and therefore should mirror real life. Personally, I’m a fan of Apple. Of course, I was a fan of former Apple CEO – Steve Jobs. I read his biography, watched his public speaking etc. I strongly agreed with one of his views on Apple where he said Apple was – “Standing in the intersection of technology and the humanities”. I watched almost every product announcement event from Apple and liked to watch related evaluation videos of every generation of Apple products. To be honest, I don’t understand why people always complain that Apple is losing its creativity. In my opinion, they’re doing better and better to make their products “stand better at the intersection of technology and the humanities.” I suppose no matter how high the technology is, eventually it should benefit the most of society. Otherwise, such technology is still at the theory level and needs to be improved.

It’s very similar with Cybersmarties. Cybersmarties is the first educational social network specifically for primary school kids. As Manager of the Technical Team, I’m pretty proud that we’re creating something unique which benefits primary school kids to not only deal with cyberbullying, but also teaches kids how to change their behaviour online in a positive way making social media a better place in the future and advancing humankind. We call it – Behavioural Technology. In our unique Behavioural Technology, except for the SMART Content Filter System, Flag Report System and Reward System which I introduced in my previous blogs before, we also designed and created a new system called the Wellbeing System during the summer.

There are lots of courses on the Internet to teach people how to achieve wellbeing. However, there are also millions of self-paced online educational systems which allow people to self-study and track their learning progress at any time. Cybersmarties combined these two types together and released our self-paced learning system – Wellbeing System on the 9thSept 2016. Considering different scenarios for teachers and students, we designed separate sections for both of them. For teachers, they can use our “Wellbeing for Teachers” section to watch our wellbeing courses at any time and show the courses in the classroom to their students. For our students, they can use our “Wellbeing Courses” whenever they want to by using the self-paced learning system. Students only need their Cybersmarties username and password to log in, after that, our system will track their learning progress automatically and they can continue their progress at any time because we believe the learning process should be continuous.

At the moment there are only a few courses on our system. However, in the future more and more courses designed specifically for primary school kids will be uploaded. What we are doing with technology and how we are adapting it to improve society as a whole by dealing with social issues is beginning to gain traction. We believe in what we like to call “Wholesome Education” which means that a child has substance; coping skills to deal with life’s problems, confident enough to dream big and see things through, kindness towards others and empathy. Recently Cybersmarties has been featured in numerous newspapers, radio interviews and most recently Irish TV. More and more people realize the importance of what we do. However we know at the moment our job is only to improve wellbeing and we’re open and very glad to invite all people with a similar vision to create something unique for our primary school kids. Along with courses we have on meditation, we’re glad that in the next couple of weeks, a Nutritionist from Australia will design a series of nutritional courses for primary school kids which can also improve their wellbeing by taking a holistic approach. So, people who are currently reading my blog (I appreciate your patience to still be reading it!!), if you are a specialist in a certain field and want to use your knowledge to improve childrens wellbeing, we’d like to have a talk to you and please contact us via our email address – info@cybersmarties or comment directly below. Thanks a million for your interest and endeavour.

This Wednesday, our Cybersmarties Team went to Dublin to attend an International Conference called Technology for Wellbeing hosted by ReachOut Ireland. We were honoured to be the first speaker at the plenary session. The CEO of Cybersmarties – Diarmuid Hudner did a fantastic and successful presentation about our efforts to combine technology and wellbeing. Followed by, Trend Micro, UCC (University College Cork) and ReachOut Australia. Google and Twitter also introduced their own approaches to wellbeing and the fantastic advances which are being made. The conference had fantastic speakers and we had some great discussions and exchanged our ideas about technology for wellbeing for the future. Although we’re a small company which launched in January of this year, we would like to try our best to help the wellbeing of children through our technology.

Finally, Cybersmarties is always upgrading and adding new features to help kids and teachers. Thanks for taking time to read my blog. See you next time.

Technology for Wellbeing was originally published on Cybersmarties Blog