Using the power of story to build self-esteem in children

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Alan White

“A tree with strong roots, laughs at storms” – Malay Proverb.

I believe that to facilitate well-being in children it is vital that well-being education begins at an early age. As a Secondary school teacher, I have always admired Primary school teachers. They have the ability to develop positive relationships with their students that is often more difficult to do at second level. At primary school, teachers have the same group for the full school year and they become so much more than just a teacher. They become role-models, counsellors, nurses, referees and much more to their students. That is why Primary level is an important time to introduce the concept of well-being education.

Our self-esteem is the foundation for our well-being. Without positive self-esteem we are likely to struggle in our lives as we will always feel like we are not good enough, experience feelings of guilt and behave in often self-destructive ways. How we think and feel about ourselves is the biggest factor that informs our internal narrative. If we have positive self-esteem, the story we tell ourselves tends to be largely a positive one. However if we have poor self- esteem the stories we tend to tell ourselves can be negative, self-deprecating and ultimately counterproductive to our hopes and dreams.

Our sense of self, begins to develop from the moment we are born. Young children are amazing at picking up subtle cues from the important people in their lives, their parents and extended family initially and as they grow their teacher’s friends and anyone else they regularly interact with. If a child is brought up in a positive and affirming environment, where they are loved unconditionally, encouraged and feel safe, positive self-esteem tends to develop. The opposite is the case if a child is brought up in an environment where they feel that they are only loved conditionally, i.e. if they conform, achieve, and behave. If a child experiences an environment where there is regular tension, sarcasm, over punishment, they will quickly internalise these experiences and begin to blame and criticise themselves.

That is why it is important to allow children to develop a strong sense of self from an early age. If a child has a strong base from which to grow, they are not only more likely to see themselves as capable and valuing themselves as an individual, but they are also more likely to flourish. The first 1000 days theory is one that makes a lot of sense in this regard. The first 1000 days of a child’s development is crucial to how they develop and how they build a platform for their future development. I believe that well-being education should be fun and inspiring. Well-being education is becoming, thankfully, more accepted as a part of our education, not just for children but also for us as teachers, who, if we are honest need well-being in our own lives to help cope with what life throws at us.

Alan White is a Secondary School Teacher at Bishopstown Community School and is well known for his inspiring work in introducing mental health initiatives into the Irish school system. His secondary school resource “Choices” is published by Creagh Castle Publishing. Alan’s new resource “Oscar & Jack” written specifically for Primary Schools will be published by Creagh Castle Publishing in March and is a series of stories and accompanying workbook for children to help them to manage their emotions and maintain mental well-being.

Using the power of story to build self-esteem in children was originally published on Cybersmarties Blog

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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

Shared Education: Has an overly literal sense of “campus” excluded willing participants?

Garry McIlwaine is Principal at Ampertaine Primary School in County Lodonderry Schools in Northern Ireland are being encouraged to think ahead and to envisage how our education system might evolve in a developing political, economic, social and financial climate. As a community as a whole, we are, it seems, being directly tasked with shaping the…

Shared Education: Has an overly literal sense of “campus” excluded willing participants? was originally published on Cybersmarties Blog

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Garry McIlwaine is Principal at Ampertaine Primary School in County Lodonderry


Schools in Northern Ireland are being encouraged to think ahead and to envisage how our education system might evolve in a developing political, economic, social and financial climate. As a community as a whole, we are, it seems, being directly tasked with shaping the organisation and delivery of education to provide for togetherness of learners and involvement of all sectors. We are to deliver educational benefits through efficient use of resources, equality of opportunity, good relations, diversity and community thorough creation of campuses.(DENI:2016)

Whilst it will be up to all of us to challenge / develop / pursue Shared Education, it seems that lessons of huge potential from at least one previous and one ongoing initiative have been overlooked.

The Dissolving Boundaries (DB) project, led by Roger Austin and Marie Mallon had the simple aim of connecting schools from all over Ireland so that learning experiences could be facilitated through the use of ICT which would, in turn, enable collaboration, create learning groups, upskill teachers and children etc. etc. It would also “dissolve boundaries” to whatever extent individual partners might be able to accommodate, given their contexts. In our school, DB was a first “toe in the water” which eventually enabled us to make applications for Integrated Education and Promoting Integrated Education (PIE) grants.

In practical terms, the DB project provided the finance for in-service training, collaborative meetings (I had never before met with teachers from the South), some hardware, online materials and, vitally, the technical support we so badly needed. Awareness of “internet safety” issues were addressed in a real way in a safe environment.

Sadly, withdrawal of Department of Education funding brought one of our school’s most fruitful, inspiring and enabling projects to an abrupt end.

We have recently undertaken work within the “CyberSmarties” social media project for 6-12 year olds with total support from parents and rave reviews from our children who are now involved in forming appropriate “friendships” through social media, gaming and problem-solving in a very tightly controlled online area. We believe that our potential to fulfil our E-Safety aims are hugely enhanced through this online facility.

The magic of DB was that no matter (almost!) where you were in Ireland, you had the potential to team up with, engage and invest in other real learners. As a huge bonus, children by the thousand were able to meet face to face with their partners at least once per year. Friendships were cultivated and nurtured in an Irish / Northern Irish “Campus.”

Isn’t is sad that the current Shared Education scheme in place in Northern Ireland is missing a ‘campus’ trick? Shouldn’t the powers-that-be be encouraged to harness the power of technology so that more remote schools like ours can be supported through their work in virtual campuses? Wouldn’t we all like to harness the potential to enable our young folk to work, learn and live together in ‘campuses’ through projects like Dissolving Boundaries and CyberSmarties?

Shared Education: Has an overly literal sense of “campus” excluded willing participants? was originally published on Cybersmarties Blog

Technology: Next Generation Education

Claudia Hudner is a Senior Infant Teacher in St. Joseph’s Primary School, Charleville, Co. Cork As a relatively newly qualified teacher, technology has always been a part of my teaching experience. I spent my first two years subbing which allowed me the opportunity to see how other schools utilise technology as a learning tool. Most…

Technology: Next Generation Education was originally published on Cybersmarties Blog

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Claudia Hudner is a Senior Infant Teacher in St. Joseph’s Primary School, Charleville, Co. Cork


As a relatively newly qualified teacher, technology has always been a part of my teaching experience. I spent my first two years subbing which allowed me the opportunity to see how other schools utilise technology as a learning tool. Most commonly the interactive whiteboard is used as a springboard for learning activities for example video clips, images, games and cartoons. Others used it for everyday activities such as writing news in the infant classroom. Most interestingly, it can be used by children as a medium for communicating with others of similar age across Ireland or abroad as a modern take on a pen pal system.

In each classroom I taught in, I undoubtedly encountered some form of technology so it goes without saying that technology is here to stay for the foreseeable future. Not only that, the children of today are surrounded intensely by various means of technology in their daily routines so why then are children not being taught how to use this technology positively and safely? Cybersmarties is certainly the way forward to amend this issue. It is a fresh and current way of teaching children in a fun, safe and positive learning environment. I once read a quote about teaching in relation to routine/ discipline that stated ‘if you want something, teach it.’ It applies to this also, if we want children to grow up to be responsible teenagers and adults who can use the internet properly then it is essential that as children they are taught how to do so.

Currently I am teaching senior infant children and while they are only five years of age they are certainly not to be underestimated when it comes to technology. Technology is what they have grown up with and it is ultimately here to stay. If we want our future students to be responsible and safe across the cyber world, then we must teach it.

Technology: Next Generation Education 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