Preventing Cyber-bullying by Not Focusing on Cyber-bullying

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Diarmuid Hudner
CEO of Cybersmarties Ltd.

As we begin 2017 and a new year of opportunities and challenges await us, I thought it would be a good time to highlight what Cybersmarties have learned in the last year about how children use social media when they are in a completely safe and positive environment. As of this week, we have over 9000 kids of Primary School age using Cybersmarties and is increasing at a rate of 1500 kids per week. We have .001% instances of cyber-bullying on the site. It is something we are proud of, not so much because of the technology we have created but because we know that this new approach is having a huge effect on the ground. We all know the issues concerning cyber-bullying – there is a new survey on it nearly every week. Talking about problems just manifests problems; nothing positive ever comes from reiterating the negative. However focusing on the positive aspects of social media manifests solutions.

Cybersmarties doesn’t concentrate on cyber-bullying – we concentrate on providing a social network that is so safe, so positive, so full of fun, so continuously encouraging of the child to believe in themselves that children on Cybersmarties have no reason or no compulsion to behave badly. And this new way is working, all the statistics are proving it. However if they do send inappropriate messages, then the behavioural technology kicks in which educates rather than punish. It gives the child the opportunity to think things through before acting. How many of us as adults could do with that!! We also subtly tell children that making friends has nothing to do with how someone looks or how popular someone is. Children as a result become less attached to other’s opinions of themselves; they are more interested in being happy within their own skin.

A wise man said “If you want something you have never had then you must do something you have never done”. Cybersmarties takes this approach to social networking for kids. If we want to prevent cyber-bullying, we must focus on positive interaction between kids. If we want to prevent the problems of mental health and depression which are so prevalent today, then we must attempt to educate children now in life skill coping mechanisms which could help them through a hard time.

Being a tech firm, we use technology to do this. This is why we brought out a Wellbeing section which teaches amongst other things – meditation. We know from our data that kids are listening to these videos before going to bed, to calm and slow the mind down and what is more important is that they are doing it themselves for themselves. We have Superheroes deliver positive messages each day to each child because good role models are important. For the team here at Cybersmarties, 2017 is about bringing a whole new range of features for kids which entertain, illuminate and allow creativity to flourish. This is our mission. We are dedicated to the propulsion of positivity in all aspects of life which can help kids grow into happier, more fulfilled and wholesome young adults.

Preventing Cyber-bullying by Not Focusing on Cyber-bullying was originally published on Cybersmarties Blog

When It Comes To Cyberbullying, Speed Is Key

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Cyber-bullying is affecting children up and down the country. It’s not just in secondary education, it starts at primary school level. And, it’s not just at home, with an average of 65% of children owning a smartphone (*Internetmatters.org), cyberbullying is happening right now in our classrooms.

Reacting at the speed of social

Whether it’s kittens, the newest meme or Beyonce’s latest outfit, news spreads fast on social media. Cyber-bullying works just the same way. Very quickly a negative image about child, a video or comment can be shared, liked and spread to hundreds of students. It is vital that anyone working with children reacts with that same speed following being alerted to an incident.

Parents need to be informed as they may not yet be aware, as well as having the culprits identified. Similarly to how you would deal with bullying offline, it is a very sensitive matter. It’s important that the child who is being bullied feels the support from teachers and understands that there is help.

It’s more than a like

It’s important to understand that something that may seem trivial to us, for example a “like” on a post, is more than just a like to many children. It’s the confirmation that someone else agrees with the bully. The child affected will place a lot more emphasis on these than we as adults would. Unfortunately, likes are gathered fast and without much thought on social media. Any engagement on a post ensures amplification through the extended network.

We know that kids sometimes don’t think through what it means to like, comment or share an opinion. It’s important for them to learn online etiquette and how to think before you click.

Prevention

As with most things, preventing the issue from occurring is the best mode of defence. We know social media is here to stay and how hard it is to enforce a no-phone ban. So when it comes to prevention we need to take it back into the real world.

Conversations about the etiquette of communicating online need to start in primary school classrooms. Just as children learn their please and thank you’s, they must understand how to act online. Both parents and teachers play a part in this. It is a new topic for most of us.

Role plays, open discussions and working in small groups to tackle the subject can help:

● Open up positive discussion about sensitive topics
● Promote self awareness and awareness of others
● Build self-esteem and confidence
● Teach the importance of self reflection as a means of accessing progress
● Address fears of students

Books alone on the other hand are unlikely to have a positive preventative effect. This is not where social media happens. Engagement and buy-in from students must be found on their platforms and in their language.

To ensure preventative actions take hold, schools must make cyber-bullying part of the ongoing conversation in classrooms. Integration in subjects such as Citizenship, ICT and PSHE are only a few examples of subjects that lend themselves to talking about cyber-bullying. A once-off presentation or external speaker is simply not going to be enough to tackle the speed at which cyber-bullying is taking hold.

About the author:

Diarmuid Hudner is author of several anti-bullying books and CEO of CyberSmarties.com.
CyberSmarties.com is a free social network for primary schools that allows kids to use social media in a controlled, locked down, supervised and safe environment without the fear of harassment or cyber-bullying and uses behavioural technology to instil positive online behavioural habits.

Follow CyberSmarties on:

Facebook Page: Cybersmarties Page
Twitter: Cybersmarties Twitter

When It Comes To Cyberbullying, Speed Is Key was originally published on Cybersmarties Blog

Tackling cyberbullying in schools – Locking down the system

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A 2015 back to school survey revealed that 65% of children aged 8-11 in the UK own a smartphone. The internet and social media are now well and truly in our primary classrooms. While many schools have rolled out a phone ban during school hours, it is very difficult to enforce this. In addition, the widespread access to internet-enabled devices has enabled the rise of the cyberbully.

The rise of the cyberbully

Access to the internet and social media channels are the reasons for the rise of the cyberbully. But, they alone cannot drive negative behaviour. Social media and the net are meant to be used positively; to learn about the world, connect with friends and family.

Children act out what they see in their environment. On social media they are openly exposed to people being torn down for their looks, an opinion being smashed and trolls stirring controversy for the sake of it. This behaviour is what is emulated and gives rise to the cyberbully.

Many believe it is up to the social networks to tackle this. The sheer scale makes this impossible. We also need to remember, these networks are not made for children.

Counteracting the trend with a locked down system

The structure of the most popular networks like Facebook or Snapchat do not lend themselves to be locked down or even restricted to make them safe for children to use. There is also no way for children to slowly be introduced to these platforms. Kids are confronted with the world in their palm of their hands and they simply don’t know how to process all the information. Nevermind the behaviour.

This is where a locked down system can help. What we mean by a locked down system, is a social network made for children that does not allow unverified kids to join and offers a monitoring system and behavioural technology to teach good online etiquette.

The involvement of schools in a system like this is vital to ensure verification of children and to assist in the educational element of online etiquette. Within CyberSmarties, a locked down social media network for primary school children, notifications of attempted bullying are shared with the class teacher so he or she can react early. It also holds a variety of learning materials that help teachers tackle the subject of cyberbullying in their classrooms.

Getting kids and schools involved at primary level is key to creating a safe and educational experience online. Together, we can approach the subject in schools, at home and online.

CyberSmarties is available for free for primary schools. Complete our signup form to find out more.

 

Click here to Sign Up

Tackling cyberbullying in schools – Locking down the system was originally published on Cybersmarties Blog

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

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

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