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

A future day with Cybersmarties

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Wenqian Xu
System Administrator of Cybersmarties Ltd.

As a technical guy, I always believe that it’s better to do more rather than talk more. Personally, I seldom promise things unless I have 80% or 90% chance of getting something done. However, what I want to do in this blog is to free my imagination and share something in my mind about what Cybersmarties is working towards. By the way, some good ideas are not from me, they are from members of the Team here at Cybersmarties.

As you know, Cybersmarties is a safe educational social network specifically for primary school kids. The age of our users is between 6 and 12. Students at such an age are naturally curious about everything. They love to experiment whether things are good or bad. As I mentioned in my previous blog – “Educate rather than Punish”, young kids are naturally kind or as in my home country of China, we refer to it as of “pure white” paper. No matter what you draw, your feelings will reveal themselves in the corresponding colors and pictures eventually. So, we need only to provide a completely safe environment for them to grow up, not only in reality, but also on the Internet. The best way to do that is to create a locked-down environment. The first step is to restrict the network just to kids, who are authenticated through schools as being real kids. But in our view, in the future, there must be a way to identify each person. To prove kids are real kids, parents are real parents, teachers are real teachers, we probably need to use kinds of “cross-verified technology” with unique biological information like fingerprint, facial recognition etc.

Very soon, the Cybersmarties world will be formed into two parts – Cybersmarties School and Cybersmarties Home. Based on research, it’s not enough for kids to form good behavior only during school time. Actually, kids will spend almost half of their time at home. This is why we developed the Fully Monitored Version of Cybersmarties.

In Cybersmarties Home, kids receive every morning an inspired message, pictures, videos or to be even more interactive, like VR (virtual reality). Our System can automatically give some suggestions based on agenda, today’s temperature, festival events information etc. With certain wearable devices (smart watch etc.), it can also combine health data (heart rate, sleep data etc.) to send alerts to parents about their kids. At the same time, parents will also receive some useful tips about kids welfare. Topics will be picked up based on parents’ own browser history and corresponding keyword trends from search engines. Of course, all content will be finally checked by Cybersmarties Experts before delivering to both parents and kids in order to make sure they’re all suitable and appropriate.

In the Cybersmarties School version, Teachers and Kids will have two kinds of roles in the system. Cybersmarties School will be highly integrated with the school curriculum. Before every class begins, a reminder will be delivered with class information and notes from teachers to kids. So, kids can prepare in advance what is better and convenient for their learning. With an improved Reward system, teachers can reward kids if they have done something good or showed excellent behavior. And vice versa, kids will lose some points because of bad or inappropriate behavior. All these points decide whether kids can play more games in the Cybersmarties Game Playground. Also, some certifications will also be delivered based on each kids’ accounts. (Sounds like Hogwarts in Harry Potter, doesn’t it? This idea is originally from Brendan Woodage, Operation Manager of Cybersmarties.com). After each class, teachers can use Cybersmarties Homework system to leave homework for kids which is available from September. So, for kids, they don’t have to worry about losing their homework anymore because they can check their own homework at any time and any place if they use Cybersmarties (This idea is originally from Diarmuid Hudner, CEO of Cybersmarties.com). Furthermore, SMART content filter system will be much “smarter”. It will not simply pick up inappropriate words based on sentiment analysis engine, with each reminder, it also contains corresponding suggestions with appropriate words. In some typical scenarios, videos with results of kids using such positive words will be displayed. Or with the help of the VR device, a VR video will let kids see the result more interactively making it more real. All these methods will educate kids better, teach them how to use social networks properly and form better behavior and relationships online with their friends. We have also introduced a Coding System for schools (available from September) which teaches kids how to code using fun interactive games through our Coding Partner in the US.

In conclusion, some of assumptions above will become reality very soon or are already a reality, but some are not easy to implement. However, finding a way to deal with cyberbullying is still a long journey for all of us. But it’s necessary and worthwhile to investigate and try. The aim of the Cybersmarties Team is to be a global pioneer in anti-cyberbullying and always do our best to educate kids in making social media be an engaging, safe and enriching experience for the future. Thank you.

A future day with Cybersmarties was originally published on Cybersmarties Blog

Just has to be done

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Wenqian Xu
System Administrator of Cybersmarties Ltd.

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present.” – Bil Keane

Many people are always worried about something. For instance, in the morning people are worried about the heavy traffic which might cause them to be late for work; During work, people are worried about other people’s opinions and trying to guess what is on someone’s mind; After work, people are worried about choosing dinner. Even before sleep, people are still worried about sleeping in the next morning which will make them late for work etc. Such a life is like a “perfect” circle, if you get lost in it, it’s very hard to shake off.

“Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow.” – Swedish Proverb

I myself had such an experience just in this month. At the beginning of June, I finally finished all my essential 12 lessons to obtain a full Irish driving license. It took quite a long time, almost every weekend. Although I hold a driving license in my home country of China, I needed to get used to driving on the left because I am used to driving on the right. For one hour each week, I tried to remember all the rules of the road (like how to enter a roundabout properly etc.). So, the only thing on my mind was to pass the driving test as soon as possible just in case I forget the skills and knowledge which I learnt from my driving instructor. Upon completion of my lessons I applied to sit my full driving test. However, after two weeks I heard nothing, no emails, no calls, nothing. So here was where the worrying started. At that time, I was starting to make lots of “strange” assumptions – Is something wrong with my application? Did I choose a wrong available date for the test? etc. After work, the first thing I did when I got back home was to check the RSA website, log in to my account and check my application status. To be honest, just looking back at it now, it reminds me of a quote from Leo Buscaglia –

“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”

So, what made me finally stop worrying was a talk with my boss – Diarmuid Hudner. Actually just one sentence which he usually says, simple but powerful –

“Just has to be done.”

Taking the above as an example, just thinking about passing the driving test is a thing which “just has to be done.” If something is wrong with my application, the driving test centre will eventually notify me to correct it. If I choose the wrong available date for a test, at least there are some days I can choose which would be suitable. According to the rules, when I get the test date, I still have 2 opportunities to reschedule for free. I also ask myself, is there anything I can do that I haven’t done? The answer is no. So, the only thing left is patience and leave it be.

This methodology also works in relation to everyday worries as discussed in my first paragraph. “Starting work on time” is a thing which just has to be done. Why not get up earlier or prepare everything the night before in order to save time in the morning? Furthermore, lots of research reveals that trying to read someone’s mind usually doesn’t work too well at all. So, why not communicate and ask what you want to ask? You might say it won’t be so easy in real life which I totally understand and agree with. But… at least it’s one way which can help us stop worrying and stay positive, isn’t it? And it works for me.

So, no more worries, things just have to be done. If something happens, find a solution to solve it. That’s it. Simple but powerful.

In the end, as a technical guy, it’s my first time to write something about psychology and methodology. Hope you like it and hope it helps you too. Thank you very much.

Just has to be done was originally published on Cybersmarties Blog

FEAR – False Evidence Appearing Real

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Diarmuid Hudner
CEO of Cybersmarties Ltd.

Recently I saw the above acronym for the word “Fear”. I thought it was very apt and how unfortunately most people experience fear without seeing it for what it is. Like power which I wrote about recently, Fear is also an illusion. Everyone experiences fear at some stage of their lives and the majority of us live with some form of it on a daily basis. Fear comes in many guises; fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of success, physical fear and social fear like a fear of public speaking or how we look. Fears do appear very real to us no matter how much of an illusion they are and they can be crippling, suffocating and draining. So what causes these fears and how are they overcome? The one common denominator between them is that something can be done to overcome them. All of us have negative behavioural habits based in fear. They govern the extent to which we live a fulfilling life or reach our full potential.

Negative Behavioural Habits are routines we have picked up over time, normally linked to something that has occurred in our lives, like we spoke in public once and everyone laughed. Others are those which are pre-conditioned from our upbringing. If our parents were very cautious, risk adverse people then it is likely that we would be too as we associate any type of risk with danger. Negative habits we have learned, however difficult can be broken. Positive behavioural triggers can be implemented to cause a reflex positive response instead of a negative one. It takes work and effort but the reward is greater than to live in fear.

Confidence and self-belief in my opinion is at the root of most of these fears and it begins when we were children. We learn a lot in school, the politics of friendship, the travesty of love scorned; school can be tough. How much different do you think your life would be today if your confidence had been boosted every day? Do you think you would have made different decisions in your life, better decisions? I believe I would certainly have made different life choices if I had been a more confident child. I would not have procrastinated and let opportunities slip away, would have attempted new things more often because I would not have been afraid of rejection or failure. Luckily I was later in a position which taught me how to change these negative habits into positive ones where fear no longer was in the driving seat but it took time and effort.

I think there is an onus on parents to ensure their children are as confident and self-reliant as they can possibly be. I think that is one of the gifts a parent can pass on to their children, not their own insecurities but rather to ensure their children have very few of them. Parents can’t rely on teachers to do this, it’s time we took ownership of that. At Cybersmarties we look after their online confidence, that’s all we do; protect them, keep them safe, fill them with confidence and teach them positive behavioural habits. We’re in this together.

FEAR – False Evidence Appearing Real was originally published on Cybersmarties Blog