Dare to Dream

DSC_5535
Diarmuid Hudner – CEO of CyberSmarties

A Child’s Chair

I decided to sit upon time on a child’s chair
To be sobered by rain and intoxicated by air
To inhale wonder and exhale thought
Of every logic and reason sought
To see no measure of a distance run
But boundless impish feckless fun
To hear no clock but to daydream light
And sleep away darkness on Queen’s and Knights
For are we not all but young children grown
Made cynical by a lifetime tapestry sewn
Taught to find answers of what cannot be learned
That happiness is in living and cannot be earned
So let yourself sail on a child’s swing
Scream out loud or dare to sing
Float for a while on an eternal chance
And remember your unabashed youthful dance

Diarmuid Hudner

I wrote the poem above because when you were a child, nothing was impossible. You dared to dream. There’s a lot to be learned from children and about how as a society we need to change the way we are doing things. We need to start living.

Oh God! To reach the point of death only to realise you have never lived

Henry David Thoreau

I came across this quote recently in an old National Geographic magazine in a doctor’s surgery. I thought that perhaps it wasn’t the best place for it to be left hanging around considering the state of health of everyone in the room, but it certainly served the purpose of concentrating the mind!!

It was strange that I came across it as I’ve been thinking around that topic the last few weeks. Where my office is in Limerick City, I have the advantage of being near a large Georgian window which overlooks The Crescent. Each day thousands of people must pass, young and old and I watch their faces. There is a weariness evident, a greyness, not just through the sheets of rain camouflaging the sun, but something else – people are stressed.

Work for most people has become more about existing than sustaining. We work to exist and ensure our families exist. Work has become less about sustaining your dreams. When I look at the people passing it seems to me like the energy has been sucked out of us and this simply isn’t how life should be.

The way we are living and working today needs to change. Working nine to five is a product of the Industrial Revolution. Prior to then people didn’t work like that, they worked according to the sunlight allowing them to work. I’m not saying we revert to that but I am saying that productive work and forced work have long since proven to be unhappy bedfellows. I have a simple philosophy here for everyone working at CyberSmarties and it goes like this “It’s not about the hours you put in, it’s about what you put into the hours”. When you are happy you’ve done enough then go home, go to the park, live your life. It’s about treating people like adults and I firmly believe a person with a happy life will be a happy employee.

Everyone here is encouraged to have vision, to create, to get excited. Before we are fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, accountants, nurses, farmers, we are human beings. Humans are designed to create. Everyone has a dream. Everyone has the ability to create that dream into something tangible that will sustain them both financially and spiritually – I truly believe that. Cybersmarties is about allowing children the freedom and safety to dream, to create. People aren’t inspired by following the status quo. They are inspired by those who allow them to be inspirational.

 

Dare to Dream was originally published on Cybersmarties Blog

Advertisements

Report, Educate and Eradicate Cyberbullying

DSC_5574-2
Wenqian Xu: Photo by Nick McDonogh

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.

George Bernard Shaw

I heard the above quote when I attended the Social Entrepreneurs Ireland 2016 workshop yesterday where Cybersmarties are participating. Personally, I can’t find a better way to describe the way Cybersmarties thinks as a company. Coincidentally, in 1997, Apple Inc. announced a short, but very powerful advertising slogan – “Think different” which could also mean “Change” from my perspective. To deal with cyberbullying, which is now a serious issue around the world, we need “Change”, too. Not only in theory, but also in a practical way.

 

In my last article, I introduced one of the key features in Cybersmarties – The Content Filter System. In brief the Content Filter System can detect inappropriate words e.g. “fat or ugly” in the message which students want to send, then block this message and give students a kind, instant and empathetic message that their words could upset others. It’s all about changing behavior, bit by bit, until positive behavior becomes habit. The most important thing is that unless students remove these “bad” words, they cannot send this message. We believe that through this mechanism, students will think and learn more how to communicate responsibly by changing their behavior gradually. The list of negative words is limitless and so we are constantly updating it and interacting with each member school to counter the problem of local slang.

In this article I want to introduce another key feature of Cybersmarties, namely “Our Emotional based Reporting System”. The philosophy behind it is “Educate rather than Punish”. So let’s “hack in”!

We have to be constantly be aware of other ways in which a child may be cyberbullied and build systems to counteract and positively educate. For example, if a student successfully sends a message which contains words, or be of a tone which may not in themselves use bad words yet at the same time is meant to upset or cause harm to the other person, then this is where our reporting system kicks in. Students are encouraged to immediately report a message which upsets them for example “I don’t want to be your friend anymore or nobody likes you”. When this occurs the student is given a choice of reasons why this message upset them like “It was mean to me or it made me feel uncomfortable”. The person who sent this bad message is immediately shut down and locked out of the system and the content of that message is sent to their teacher who can take appropriate action to educate the child on why they cannot send a message like this. When the teacher is happy that the child has learnt why they cannot do this then the teacher can “reactivate” the child thus allowing them back on the system. This technology is very important from a behavioral aspect as it teaches two very important lessons. Firstly, there are repercussions to negative behavior and secondly from the victim’s perspective, there is an immediate response to safeguarding your personal online presence. There are other sub-systems within this technology which catch other areas of negative behavior and protect the identity of individuals but are too intricate to fully explain in writing and I don’t want you falling asleep on me!!

In my next article I am going to look at all the positive technology we have in Cybersmarties which promotes self-esteem and confidence as well as the fun aspects of the network to keep the kids engaged. I strongly believe Cybersmarties will become a giant in anti-cyberbullying technology and change the way in which future generations use social networks and behave online. Thanks for reading my blog and until next time, I hope you all have a great and safe Easter break!

Report, Educate and Eradicate Cyberbullying was originally published on Cybersmarties Blog

St. Patrick’s Day and The Irish Abroad

When I found out it was my turn to write this week’s blog I was nervous. The first blog I wrote was about a cyber-bullying incident in school, and how even though it was dealt with “correctly” by the school, preventing such incidents by changing the behaviour at a younger age should be a higher priority. So that blog was easier for me to write.

So in my search for a topic to write about, St. Patrick’s day has come and past and the whole world celebrated Ireland, the Irish and our culture. Monuments around the world were lit up green, parades were held, and it was a another great day to be proud to be Irish.

pictures from Tourism Ireland

 

pictures from Tourism Ireland
Photo by H. Warren

And that’s where I drew my inspiration for this short piece.

Ireland, the Irish, and the Irish abroad.

Unfortunately emigration and Ireland go hand in hand. Since the famine, generation after generation has left the Emerald Isle in search of work abroad. 70 million people across the world now claim Irish ancestry. Even Barack Obama has claimed Irish ancestry! Emigration is not something to be proud of; it has always been an economic necessity due to a succession of ineffective governments, with often the best and brightest Ireland has to offer enriching the culture and economy of the country they emigrate to. The social aspect of leaving Ireland is very real and very emotional for those leaving and those left behind because Home is always Home wherever you end up living. Fortunately it is now easier to remain in touch with our loved ones with the emergence of social media.

And that’s where I yet again, will introduce you to CyberSmarties.

The world is a big place when your family is on the other side of it, but social media can bring us closer together. As we are in talks with schools across the globe, we are giving Irish schools the opportunity to link up with other schools world wide, via our social network, and giving your children their first opportunity to connect with cousins their own age, on a locked down, safe social network designed for them! How nice would it be for your son or daughters family in Australia, Canada, the US or wherever they now live, having the ability for their kids to communicate with kids from the very school they went to themselves. That will create a link far better and stronger than a postcard or email; it is something tangible, something real, something that brings them back home. Joint projects can be shared and maybe even trips; we are only limited by our own imagination as to how far we can grow this. So if you have a son or daughter, brother or sister abroad with kids of primary school age, ask them to get in touch with us and we will get them in touch with their home school here in Ireland. Lets make the world a smaller place. Please contact us at admin@cybersmarties.com or visit www.cybersmarties.com

 

St. Patrick’s Day and The Irish Abroad was originally published on Cybersmarties Blog

The Road Less Travelled Has No Potholes

business Cybersmarties.com, a social network for primary school age kids Diarmuid Hudner Picture: Adrian Butler
Cybersmarties.com, a social network for primary school age kids
Diarmuid Hudner
Picture: Adrian Butler

The road less travelled has less potholes.

CyberSmarties.com came from an idea in a book. It was less than an idea; it was more of a whisper that we could do things better. So over two and a half years of heartbreak, walletbreak, absolutely no help break and countless kicks in the teeth break, we got it off the ground in January 2016. Cybersmarties is being referred to as revolutionary in how cyber-bullying is being approached: the University of Limerick is independently carrying out analysis on the positive behavioural changes in kids on social media as a result of using CyberSmarties. We are now talking to schools around the globe.

But stopping cyber-bullying is not why we built CyberSmarties… we built it because we believe in creativity… and when one removes the obstacles which hamper and suffocate the human spirits ability to create then only one thing will happen… creativity will flourish. I’m tired of how society is, what we have become and how we have allowed ourselves give up our freedom inch by inch. Being human is being individual, to believe you are playing a part in this world because you have something to contribute. Somehow society has immersed us in a fog of making one believe your opinion is not important, or that having a moral conscience is something to be laughed at, that you should shut up, say nothing, keep it in and go along. We live by one motto here… keep going no matter what happens… it can be a lonely road but one we would rather travel alone than follow the herd in the wrong direction.

CyberSmarties is more about its people than its inventions, because without its people our inventions would mean nothing. They are part of it, it’s a living organism. A closed fist has power… even more so when its opened to reveal its made up of five individual parts. CyberSmarties is just the beginning, we are bringing more ideas to fruition in the next few months they all have one purpose; they are there to help you be creative in your life. They will not make you better looking, or get you a new car, or find you the man or woman of your dreams, but they will help you be creative and think again of how you are important and part of something much bigger than watching the Kardashians.

In the last few weeks we have designed a Safe Educational Social Network for Special Needs Schools.

We want to make it free!

But we need your help.

If you are a company and want to sponsor a school for a year then please get in touch! We are doing our part but we need help!
Please join us on the road less travelled to a better place.

The Road Less Travelled Has No Potholes was originally published on Cybersmarties Blog

Technology, Social Network and Cyberbullying

Graduation-Avatar-3

Wenqian Xu – System Administrator of Cybersmarties Ltd.

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.
– Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities in 1859

Technology is changing our world and is also changing our life. After the First and Second Industrial Revolutions, we are now in the Third Industrial Revolution, better known as the Information or Digital Revolution. The feature to this revolution is the mass production and widespread use of digital logic circuits, and its derived technologies, including the computer, digital cellular phone, and the Internet. With the development of the Internet, Websites always play the major role and basically, hundreds of different types of websites constitute the whole content of the Internet world.

Now for the technical bit….the internet has evolved just like human beings have evolved and in tandem with consumer wants and desires. Since Web 2.0 came out – a standard Web 2.0 website may allow users to interact and collaborate with each other in a social media dialogue as creators of user-generated content in a virtual community, instead of “old” websites where people are limited to the passive viewing of content which is called Web 1.0. The Social Network is one of typical types in Web 2.0. In a social network, each user can post update, add photos or videos, talk with each other in private message, check and comment on every update of friends etc. Yes, exactly like Facebook. People suddenly find there are much less restrictions here compared to the real world. They can communicate with each other at any time, at any place and the most frightening – say anything they want. That’s no problem for adults if we accept that everyone has the right to free speech but what about access for children? Should children be exposed to unfettered, unrestricted and unaccountable content in this new revolution? We think not….children should be protected in this cyber world just as they are in the physical world. We have a responsibility as a species to protect our young.

Maybe parents out there will say that social media is too dangerous and kids shouldn’t be able to use it at all. Actually, kids are technology mad, with it quite rare to find a youngster not having at least some access to the Internet and social network pages through their phone, tablet or games. The legal age is 13 (In Western Society not considered an adult) to access social networks but kids as young as 10 are gaining access by changing their date of birth. The age is not enforced and so is again unrestricted – it’s like leaving a jar of sweets in a room with the lid off and expecting kids not to take one. There are safety measures which can be taken like restricting access to certain sites but just like we did when we were young, kids find ways to bypass adults without their knowledge. Just like in the Industrial Revolution when kids were used in the coal mines, there will always be those out there who wish to exploit them unless those of us with a social conscience stand up for them. We cannot stop progress but we can stop exploitation and access to dangers of predators and cyberbullying and this starts with education. What is needed is education and behavioural change at an early age BEFORE they get onto social media.

Based on this idea, through two and a half years of development, we designed a brand new product – Cybersmarties.com, which is the first safe educational social network specifically for primary schools. At Cybersmarties, kids are strictly identified and authenticated as kids. This hasn’t been done before. There are no adults on the system, except responsible Principals and Teachers in the school.

Bear with me…I’m the techie guy!! Using the re-designed content filter system, kids are taught which words are inappropriate and might make the intended receiver upset. Through this built-in mechanism, it will educate and “force” kids not to use inappropriate words. Unless they get rid of these bad words, they can’t send any messages to anyone. We believe most kids are born with kind and pure intentions. We believe there are no kids who intentionally go out to cyberbully others – they just haven’t been taught properly. Sometimes, the cyberbully today may become the victim tomorrow. In most cases, kids act before thinking through the consequences of their actions (many adults guilty of this also) and so we slow down and mould positive action until it becomes a habit for them. Cybersmarties remind kids to think again and educates them to message appropriately.

Content-filter

There are lots of other features in Cybersmarties. In my next article, I will describe another outstanding sub-system – Flag Report System to explain our new philosophy – “Educate rather than Punish”. See you next time.

Wenqian Xu is the Systems Administraion Manager at Cybersmarties.com

Technology, Social Network and Cyberbullying was originally published on Cybersmarties Blog

Changing a Generation

1-IMG_8289-1
Brendan Woodage – Public Relations for CyberSmarties

I’ve been growing up with social media since I was 13, and I’m 22 now. And it’s safe to say that I’m still learning. Up until I started working for CyberSmarties I had no experience with Twitter. I was comfortable with Facebook and wasn’t willing to change. So I can only imagine what it’s like for my elders, and the previous generation, to learn and fully understand these new forms of communication, it’s benefits, and it’s pitfalls.

Since I’ve been on social media, and since it’s creation, cyberbullying has existed. In 5th year this problem arose for me in a huge way. I was a bystander, but none the less, it had a huge impact on me. This incident wasn’t just a case of cyberbullying, this was a cyber-attack aimed at a group of my classmates. A few had students swapped each other’s accounts and passwords and posted and bullied these classmates of mine anonymously on Facebook through each other’s profiles. The abuse lasted weeks until one of the students brought it to the schools attention. Once notified, the school did everything within their power to remedy the situation and catch and punish the culprits. However, despite the school’s best efforts, it created a rift within the classroom, one that echoed through the remaining years of school.

And that’s my issue.
Cyberbullying and bullying in general, cannot be remedied by retrospective reaction. The school did everything in it’s power to help resolve the issue, but it’s aftermath lingered on for 2 years. And that leads to my point.

How can we ensure that this generation and the next, knows better?
How do we tackle this problem once and for all?
How do we eradicate cyberbullying?

My Answer,
Through Interactive Education,
and through Behavioural Change.

No more reading from a book, or an information page or getting a third party speaker saying “Cyber Bullying is bad! Don’t do it”. What is needed is a social network, designed specifically for kids, which allows them to have a social networking experience designed specifically for them.
A social network which is SAFE, and only has children of their own age group (realistically between the age of 7-12) on it. A social network that was built, with the whole purpose of educating the kids of whats right, and whats wrong to do whilst social networking, and for this social network to be integrated into the classroom, to be taught by teachers at the earliest level.

This is what attracted me to CyberSmarties. The fact that they think in a proactive way, to change behaviour and create a new standard way of thinking.

It is only through this approach of thinking differently and proactively empowering positive behavioural change can we eradicate this negative behaviour and put an end to cyber bullying. If we can mould the next generation into one that values respect and empathy online, not only can we decrease the instances of cyberbullying once, we can change a generation for the better.

The Internet is like a bike. For your kids to learn how to cycle, you wouldn’t give them a book. You’d give them stabilizers.

Changing a Generation was originally published on Cybersmarties Blog

Why Teaching Cybersafety for a day won’t stop Cyberbullying

business Cybersmarties.com, a social network for primary school age kids Diarmuid Hudner Picture: Adrian Butler
Cybersmarties.com, a social network for primary school age kids
Diarmuid Hudner
Picture: Adrian Butler
Diarmuid Hudner: CEO of CyberSmarties

Many parents reading this will not have grown up with Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat etc. Social media was not part of our lives when we were in our teens and if you are around my age (a weather beaten 41!!) then mobile phones were not around much either except maybe for the early “brick” versions which needed a suitcase to carry. We were never taught how to use social media, it just happened and we didn’t realise how global a particular comment or photo could go in a matter of minutes. For many of us it was frightening, still is frightening and we treat it with nervous apprehension. For our kids however, this is a different story altogether. They HAVE grown up with it; this is their form of communication and it is part of their lives. Many of you will see your child sitting on the couch using not just one device like a mobile but using two or three devices all at the same time, having numerous separate conversations with different groups of people. This may seem like a different world to us but its their world and like every generation, parents won’t understand what their kids are doing or why they are doing it.

We all know the dangers of social media, we hear it every day on the radio with frightening stories of grooming, predators, impersonation and cyber-bullying. Often adults and not kids are the worst culprits….why? because they were never shown what is acceptable behaviour and there are no consequences to their actions. Children are going on social media at a younger and younger age and this age limit will only further decrease with time despite parents attempts to keep them sheltered from it. They are already using games with social media interaction which are classified as “child friendly”. Having worked in this sector now for four years and written four educational books which are used in schools at primary and secondary level, I know that the only way of changing the negative behaviour which currently exists online is by instigating a generational shift in behaviour. There is only one way to do this – teach your children how to behave online in schools on a safe network which not only positively conditions behaviour but in a practical sense teaches them manners for online use. Routine becomes habit and we all know how difficult it is to break a habit. If our kids are taught in a practical way from a young age i.e how to protect themselves and safeguard their identity, to be aware of how what they say could be taken up in a negative way by someone else, to report negative comments immediately, to treat others with respect then this way of behaving becomes the norm through repetition. Then this generation of online users will behave in a completely different way than the generation before because they know no other way than the way they have been taught and therein lies the difference.

That is why we built http://www.cybersmarties.com.

profile

It is a new way of thinking because it has to be as nothing anyone has tried before has worked. I’m not going to rabbit on about how great it is but all I will say is that it took two and a half years to get the behavioural technology right, it has been tested with fantastic results and it works. If you are a parent who is afraid of what your child in primary school is going to do when they go on social media, don’t bury your head in the sand and hope the problems disappears – prepare them for what lies ahead by getting your school to use Cybersmarties.com. Having someone come to your school to teach parents, teachers and kids about cybersafety has of course its merits in raising awareness and I fully endorse it but you won’t learn much in one day. Like any subject, it is the act of repetition which reinforces learning and habit and you cannot learn about computers out of a book. You will only learn computers on a computer, you will only learn online behaviour on an online educational behavioural platform. In simple terms, this is why you have a theory test and a practical test before you pass your driving test. The same applies to online behaviour and safety….you must gain your experience in a safe educational practical environment.

Why Teaching Cybersafety for a day won’t stop Cyberbullying was originally published on Cybersmarties Blog