The Illusion of Power

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Diarmuid Hudner
CEO of Cybersmarties Ltd.

“Another illusion is that external events have the power to hurt you, that other people have the power to hurt you. They don’t. It’s you who give this power to them”
— Anthony de Mello

Power is a very intangible force. It can take many forms and many guises both positive and negative. In relation to bullying or cyber-bullying, it is the perceived power of the bully over their victim, which causes more distress and worry than any physical act. In a physical sense, it could be that the bully is bigger, stronger and more violent that their victim. In a metaphysical sense it is this perceived constant threat of impending harm which the bully wields which causes the real damage. In cyber-bullying it is the perceived power of the anonymous bully multiplied by hundreds if not thousands of anonymous bullies which may cause extreme mental harm. Likewise it is the perceived power of certain people, which in most cases is not physical, which can make life a misery. This doesn’t just happen in schools. This happens throughout our lives. Bullying in the workplace is a constant occurrence. The popular person in school or at work may also wield an immense perceived power if they feel threatened or on the contrary if others feel that they too will have power by being associated with them. However the important point here is that power is an illusion, it is perceived to be true. Like the quote by Anthony de Mello above, power is given away, it is not taken.

Imagine for a moment you believed yourself to be a superhero; the most beautiful specimen of the human race, the most intelligent person on the planet, the strongest, the most charismatic individual who ever walked this earth. Imagine that you don’t just believe it; you know it to be true because you have the sight of a laser-eye treated eagle. To you it is a statement of fact. Let’s assume for a moment you are a good superhero like Superman or Wonder Woman, who doesn’t use their powers for anything other than good deeds. Now imagine that someone said you were ugly or that you were stupid. Imagine they posted pictures of you on social media, ridiculing your fantastic superhero’s costume. You would laugh at them, feel sorry for their lack of sight or understanding for how could an earthling ever compete with a superhero? But of course you wouldn’t make fun of them because obviously real superheroes wouldn’t do that kind of thing. Imagine for a moment you had that self-belief, that armour of confidence which insults bounce off. The reality is of course is that you are that superhero. You only stop becoming one when you stop believing you have that power and give it away.

At Cybersmarties, we are continually trying to make every child believe again that they are superheroes. Children with the lowest self-esteem are cyber-bullied the most. They are also the least likely to report someone who is bullying them because they live in fear. In what kind of world do we live in that any child, your child, is too afraid to say anything because of the perceived power that these bullies have over their lives. Every day we send a positive message or video to each child, seven days a week. There are motivational sayings, inspirational videos to constantly drip feed self-belief and create that armour of confidence. In the fully monitored site we watch out for the person who cant fight for themselves just yet, who cannot report a message because they are too afraid. Our system catches it before it can cause damage. We are working on other areas we can boost self-confidence and will continually work at ways because we believe every child is a superhero even if they don’t know it yet.

In my next blog I am going to discuss how the act of a group or community to ignore perceived power is in itself immensely powerful. Gandhi overthrew the British Empire in this way. The Civil Rights Marches in the 1960’s did the same with institutions of bigotry. They succeeded because they ignored this negative perceived power as a group. In my next blog I will apply that logic to a social media platform and a new way of thinking in how we control cyber-bullying for both adults and children and use it like it was meant to be used, to make friends and share experiences from people across the world.

The Illusion of Power was originally published on Cybersmarties Blog

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Educate rather than Punish

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Wenqian Xu – System Administrator of Cybersmarties Ltd.

Man is naturally good and that vice and error are alien to him.
– Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 1712 – 1778

There are many philosophies about human nature. One of them is believing everyone is born with kindness, another is believing human beings were born with original sin. In my opinion, in some ways, both of them are correct. If you believe everyone is born with kindness, then as part of growing up, education, morals etc. will lead you to promote your naturally born kindness. If however, you believe people are born with original sin then laws, policies etc. will restrict and forbid you from exceeding the limits of what a society will endure as being acceptable. However, in this article, I don’t want to discuss the whole nurture versus nature conundrum. What I want to talk about is in relation to children; is education and reward more effective than punishment, or is punishment a greater influence on establishing good behaviour?

I always believe that all children are naturally kind or as in my country we refer to it as of “pure white” paper; no matter you draw, it will reveal itself in the corresponding pictures. All parents want their kids to have good behaviour. That’s why parents and teachers always can’t ignore bad behaviour even when they are told that rewarding good behaviour is more effective than punishing bad behaviour. For them, ignoring bad behaviour may seem like tolerating if not rewarding it and therefore failing in their duty as a parent or teacher. However, research conducted by some Dutch neuroscientists found out why education or rewards are better than punishment.

In their work, they split two groups of children (different ages) to teach them some basic tasks by means of positive, rewarding feedback or negative, “punishing” feedback. The feature of their work is that after teaching, they did the brain scans for both groups of children. Brain images revealed brain areas responsible for cognitive control and located in the cerebral cortex seemed to play a role in why younger and older children learned so differently. For older kids, negative feedbacks or “punishment” seem more effective but for younger kids, positive feedbacks and rewards are much better and more effective.

I believe that we should educate and reward children from the very beginning because younger children may simply have an easier time processing simpler, positive, rewarding information than negative feedback. As I said before, every child is like “pure white” paper. Why do we wait for bad drawings in their “paper”? How about positively educating them in advance? It is about taking a different approach like considering a glass half full or half empty. In addition, our “Negative Content Filter” and “Flag Report System” which I discussed in earlier blogs counters negative behaviour occurring and allows positive habits to take hold at an earlier age.

Based on this idea, the Cybersmarties Team developed a new system called “The Reward System”. The purpose of this Reward System is to encourage children to learn good, positive behaviour, rather than punish them. In our system, there are two kinds of Stars. One of them is a Gold Star, which represents Excellent Behaviour. The other one is a Silver Star, which represents Good Behaviour. Because children like to compare with their friends, we can add these “Stars” into their Profile section, just near their avatar, like a medal. Also, we don’t give any Stars to any student. We always believe professional jobs should be done by professional people. So, we give this permission to teachers who know each child better than us. With our Reward System, students will be encouraged and rewarded for any good behaviour, not just whilst using Cybersmarties, but also for their behaviour in school in general. Therefore we concentrate on the good and not on the bad.

In the end, as Diarmuid said in last week blog, we’re delighted to announce Cybersmarties is developing and building an outstanding, fully monitored system which initially called “Referee System”. With our new Referee System, schools and parents can have the peace of mind knowing that on Cybersmarties, their children are free from harassment, protected and educated in positive behaviour. The Cybersmarties Team is always trying to provide better, safer services to help our kids have a better, fun, creative and more enjoyable experience on social media.

Educate rather than Punish was originally published on Cybersmarties Blog

What’s Rare is Wonderful

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Diarmuid Hudner – CEO of CyberSmarties

“We need technology in every classroom and in every student and teacher’s hand, because it is the pen and paper of our time, and it is the lens through which we experience much of our world.”
– David Warlick

It’s not very often I get excited. Watching my favourite team win may cause a raised eyebrow but is unlikely to register a change in heart pulse. It’s the way I am for better or for worse. Something which does cause a flutter however is when something new is created from nothing which will result in a discernible change in society.

Of course I am biased here as the reason I am excited is directly related to something we as a company have created. For a long time now, we have been beverishly working away on a system which would ensure children enjoyed all the benefits of social media but without any of its dangers. It seemed like an impossible task but therein was the challenge we accepted.

Cybersmarties had already created a safe social educational network for kids, which is an educational tool for schools to educate children through behavioural technology how to act responsibly online, protect themselves and ensure a better way in the future of how social media is used. And it has been working great, everybody loves it and now it looks like we are expanding into Holland but there was an itch we couldn’t scratch and the Team at Cybersmarties wasn’t happy about it.

The issue was, what happened after school or at weekends or during the holidays. If kids were being taught how to behave online during school then wouldn’t it be better if they could use this knowledge after school to good effect. The problem was, how do we ensure the safety of children using this system outside of school since safety is our first priority?

The boffins here at Cybersmarties have been working here day and night on a system which would detect instances of harassment or cyber-bullying immediately and also provide a Referee System by which appropriate behaviour is ensured. Something which was also a personal goal of mine was to ensure the protection of the child who lacked self-esteem or confidence and who would therefore be too afraid to report harassment until it was too late. These issues needed to be rectified and last week we succeeded. I wont bore you with the number of algorithms and complex number sequences which we had to come up with but basically it allows a team of expert “Cyber Referees” to fully monitor the system in or out of school, seven days a week. This now means your child can use Cybersmarties in a fully locked down, advertising free system, make friends with other kids and exchange messages, play games, jokes and enter competitions and all the time they are free from harassment as it is detected immediately, dealt with and positively educated around. From a parents or teachers point of view there is the peace of mind from knowing that children are not talking to anyone they shouldn’t be talking to, negative behaviour is dealt with immediately and reported upon whilst at the same time the kids are enjoying it as it is built just for them.

The implications of this new system are huge. You need not worry now about who your child is talking to, what they are saying and what is being said to them. That’s all taken care of and whats more, the behavioural technology is constantly moulding positive behaviour, the daily positive messages and videos are boosting their self-esteem and encouraging them to be creative and be the best they can be and the games, jokes etc are making it a cool, fun space for them to hang out together.

So yes I got excited this week. There may have been even a slight curling of the lip into a faint smile, but then what’s rare is wonderful.

What’s Rare is Wonderful was originally published on Cybersmarties Blog

Online Regrets?

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Brendan Woodage

This week I would like to ask you a simple question. A question that no one ever really asks themselves, but a question I think must be asked every once in a while.

The Question is: If you were to look back on your Social Media Profiles in 10 years time, would you be happy with what you see.

I don’t mean your appearance, or whether you’re the most shared or retweeted person you know. I mean you as a person, and the persona that you portray.

The reason why I’m asking you is because, like everyone my age (22), I spend a lot of my time browsing on social media, endlessly flicking through my feed, and as often as I do, I see people I’d know, their opinions, content that they’ve shared or retweeted, and I find I keep asking myself the same question. Will they regret or be embarrassed by that in 10 years.

We all know the internet never forgets. Famous Celebrities like Tom Hardy and Taylor Swift have both fallen victim to their fans unearthing their old Myspace accounts. Accounts that they once held before they became household names. Accounts that reveal far more about their personalities, and opinions than you’d ever learn from an interview, and that they might be embarrassed about. And it’s not just celebrities who might look back and feel embarrassed. I grew up in the Bebo era, and I know that the way I spoke back then, would make me question my ability to speak English now. “I thought dat writin lyk dis ws so cool bck den tho”….

But the thing is, that was open social media. A social media that not only my age group and I were on, but a network that was open to any age group, and to anyone. And looking back, it saddens me that there wasn’t a social network that was for my age group, and ONLY for my age group. One that when you grow up, you’re profile is gone forever. One that taught and prepared me for the next network that I became a member of.

That is why I love CyberSmarties. We provide kids with a space that is not only safe and educational for them, but allows them to be kids, to explore, to learn and to only be surrounded by kids of their own age, and that when they grow up and move on to the next social media, they won’t have the fear of having friends, family or future employers discovering a profile from their youth that doesn’t reflect the person they’ve become.

Online Regrets? was originally published on Cybersmarties Blog

Where knowledge ends, speculation begins

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Diarmuid Hudner – Author and CEO of CyberSmarties

“Where knowledge ends, speculation begins”

Sherlock Holmes (Arthur Conan Doyle)

We live in a modern age. We like to think of ourselves as modern people: open-minded, objective, reasoned and embracing of new concepts and practices. This is how Irish people like to see themselves, it’s what we are told in the media, it’s what we like to believe. We thought also that during the Celtic Tiger, we were one of fastest developing economies on the planet, that we influenced the world economy, that we had an effect on world trade. We like to think we have a first class education system, health system, infrastructure, the IT hub of Europe. We like to think a lot of things, because it is easier and nicer to believe nice things and the harsh reality can be too hard to handle. However reality has a terrible habit of dispelling myths and the myths are quickly dissipating.

We are in truth a country with a 1st world mentality but with 3rd world standards. Our “Boom” was based on ill-founded speculation. At one point we were building more houses here in Ireland (population 4.5 million) than the UK (population 65 million). Logic had been diluted by fantasy. Our Health system is one of the worst in Europe. We are NOT the IT Hub of Europe despite the presence of Google, Facebook etc – this is a taxation issue. If we did not have the lowest Corporation Tax in Europe, they would be gone overnight and this could yet happen. I am not one of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse here but I believe that only when you look at things in the cold light of day, through clear glasses and not rose tinted ones, that one can begin to address problems head-on, deal with them and improve. And this brings me to Education.

Ireland has always prided itself on its education system. As a former emigrant who had to leave Ireland to find work, I was confident of one thing in a new country; I could hold my own with anyone on an academic level because I had been through the Irish Education system. Can we say the same now? Going on current statistics, emigration is only going one way….the tide is staying out. The likelihood is that your son or daughter will have to leave Ireland to find work, to make a life. This is just a horrible fact that we have to accept. If we have the same people in power, in the same positions, doing the same things, how do ever expect things to change. It is the definition of madness – doing the same things over and over and expecting a different result. Therefore, assuming nothing changes, wouldn’t you like your child to stand the best chance possible of succeeding when they arrive on foreign shores, nervous, alone and anxious.

We live in a digital age. Our children are digital children, they’ve grown up with technology so it is reasonable to believe that they are well equipped in this regard. The reality however is far from the truth. Your child may be able to negotiate Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram on three different devices whilst at the same time watching X Factor and eating pizza but this does not mean they are IT literate. This does not mean they are technologically aware with current practices. Ireland scores very low in the world in this regard. I’ll give you an example. We are visiting schools with Cybersmarties everyday in different parts of the country. Progressive schools who want to take our system on because it is proven to influence positive behavioural change in children but they don’t have broadband and they have only five or six computers for hundreds of children. This is 2016 not 1916. In my old secondary school we had three computers in 1992 – they now have eight, twenty four years later. Meanwhile in Holland where Cybersmarties has been invited to bring our system, every child in school has a computer. There is a reason why we are not leaders in Europe – we invest in all the wrong areas. Like in an private company, it’s future is dependent on how much you invest in the next new product. Ireland’s future is dependent on how much it invests in its children.

So what do we do about it? Do we moan? Do we write blogs like I am now or do we get busy. Change only occurs through action. Cybersmarties is now working with and seeking businesses who will help us equip our schools with modern computers and work with broadband companies to bring the Irish Education system up to date. We’re not waiting for the government (if we had one) to do it, we’re not waiting for the Dept of Education to do it. We’re doing it because otherwise it wont get done. Let’s give our kids a fighting chance. I, and I am sure you do too, want Irish children to not just compete at the highest level but to win at the highest level, not just be technologically aware but to be more technologically advanced than their counterparts. Irish people are some of the most creative, entrepreneurial people on the planet if only we get out of our own way and stop letting sub-standard acceptance of mediocrity not bring us down but keep us down.

 

 

 

Where knowledge ends, speculation begins was originally published on Cybersmarties Blog

How to make yourself Cool?

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Written by Wenqian Xu Systems Administrator

“Cool” is a very interesting word. According to the definition in Wikipedia, the word “Cool” refers to an aesthetic attitude, behavior or style. In daily life, we love to talk to people who are cool, we love to work with people who are cool, we love to make friends with people who are cool. However, people usually judge someone’s character via their behaviour, rather than only listen to people’s own self-description. Therefore, it’s useless to only say “I’m cool” yourself. Nobody will believe you.

So, here is the question – How to make yourself really Cool? Our answer is to Change your behaviour.
But the question is how do you change your behaviour in a positive way?

In Cybersmarties, we have a section called – “What Matters”. In this section, not only students, but also teachers can receive inspirational messages every morning. The style of the messages are very versatile, including positive images, videos and articles which are all specifically selected by our educational experts. In order to make sure the contents are suitable for kids and teachers, we separate the section into two sub parts. One of them is What Matters for Students, the other one is What Matters for Teachers and are strictly separated and only visible by their own accounts. For instance, if you log in the Cybersmarties as a Student, you can only see the section of “What Matters for Students”, you will never see “What Matters for Teachers” because we believe kids and adults focus on different inspirational aspects.

For students, because they’re in the primary school from age 6 to 12, they are similar to a piece of pure paper. Whatever you draw, they will receive and become those colors. So, kids will receive messages like “Why fit in when you were born to stand out” (published at 7th.April.2016), “Fall down 7 times, Stand back up 8 times” (published at 5th.April.2016) etc. However, for teachers, they focus on teaching and educational aspects. They will receive messages like “Education is teaching our children to desire the right things – Plato” (published at 6th.April.2016) and “Education’s purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one – Malcolm S. Forbes” (published at 4th.April.2016) etc.

We believe children only need to take a few moments every day to watch or view these positive messages, rather than reading a thick book about how to change their behaviour because most children will lose interest if it is a thick book. In CyberSmarties, you only need to follow the messages every morning (they are actually very easy to remember) and maybe they can positively affect and influence you, little by little, especially for primary school kids.

In CyberSmarties, we also have some other fun aspects outside of our Games Section (We have hundreds of Educational, Action and Music games to keep children engaged). For instance, we have a section called “Jokes” which provide typical and popular jokes to help students have fun and relax. If students have any new jokes they’d love to share, they can use the Joke Submit Form to send to us which we will monitor and if appropriate upload on our site.

We also have a “Competitions” section. This section is to organize popular competitions among all schools in the CyberSmarties family. Currently, the first competition we are holding is for the Best picture of Happiness. We will show the top five pictures here and students from across Ireland can vote on their favorite one. The winner will receive €100 for their school. Closing date for entry is April. 30th 2016. So, if your school has already taken the free trial with CyberSmarties or is currently using our system, don’t hesitate to use your imagination and draw a picture of what happiness means to you and ask your teacher to post it to our office!

However, if you are interested in our competition, but your school isn’t already on board, why not ask your teacher to sign up for one-month free trial? Here is the link below:

Sign Up for one-month Free Trial

Last but not least, everything should have balance. In my first article, I talked about our negative content filter system. So, in my next article, I’d like to tell something about our new feature – “Reward System” which rewards children for positive online behaviour. See you next time.

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How to make yourself Cool? was originally published on Cybersmarties Blog

Technology – Taking Flight

On December 17th 1903, the Wright Brothers achieved what no man had ever achieved before; Flight.  With their fixed wing aircraft, the Wright Flyer, the Wright Brothers started a new way of thinking, one that pushed boundaries, one that believed in achieving more.

“If birds can glide for long periods of time, then… why can’t I?” – Orville Wright

Over the next 30 years, their vision, like the visions of many before them, expanded into something far greater than they could ever have imagined.

So let’s jump forward to the 12th of April 1961.

The day USSR Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, became the first person in human history to be sent into Space.

Model of the Vostok spacecraft that took Yuri Gagarin to space.

But in between this time, what began as someone’s dream to conquer the skies and allow people to explore and travel everywhere on the globe, the dark side of human behaviour stepped in. By 1914, planes were being used to bomb Paris. By 1945, planes dropped the first Atomic bomb on Japan. There was nothing wrong with the invention; it was man’s ability to turn something positive into something negative.

And yet we live in a world that’s still growing. Every day, revolutionary technology is moving us forward as a race in medicine, in transport, and in communication.

In communication alone, just look at how far we’ve come in the last 20 years. The introduction of the personal computer, the mobile phone and the internet has for the first time in human history, given us the ability to communicate with anybody in real time, anywhere in the world. And yet again there have been problems. Cyber-bullying is now a global issue.

Time and time again, we have to look at behaviour and educating positive behaviour. This is why Cybersmarties was invented: to instil positive behavioural habits in children so that they grow up to be responsible adults online and use social media as it should be used, to make friends and interact on a global stage.

We’re already looking towards the future, already in the mindset of what comes next. Mark Zuckerberg believes that the next stage of our social and communication experience will come through the medium of Virtual Reality, and I wholeheartedly agree.

So it’s NOW that we start preparing for this new world that’s on the horizon. It’s now that we put the right practices in place to prevent the problems that we currently face (cyber-bullying, trolling, impersonation). It is now that we instil ideas into the youth, and give them the environment to flourish now, and into the future.

We were lucky enough to grow up in an environment where there was always much encouragement to children to pursue intellectual interests; to investigate whatever aroused curiosity. – Orville Wright

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brenny
Written by Brendan Woodage CyberSmarties Administrator

Technology – Taking Flight was originally published on Cybersmarties Blog