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

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

Staying true to yourself

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Brendan Woodage
Operations Manager at CyberSmarties

Social media currently co-exists with our lives. For many of us there is no boundary between real life, and the life we live online. The first thing many of us do when we wake up is reach over to our phone to see did we “miss anything” while we slept. However, one of the truest aspects of social media is that it gives us the opportunity to portray ourselves in the light that we want to be portrayed. Shy people can be outspoken, rich people can flaunt their wealthy lifestyles, and your everyday Joe like me can share moments in our everyday lives. We can choose to be smart, funny or provocative, and we can let our followers, friends, and family believe that the “you” that they see on social media, is the “real you”.

However, in my opinion, this ability to craft yourself into your ideal version of yourself online is not actually one of social media’s benefits, but one of social media’s greatest pitfalls. For those who have a strong sense of identity offline, this isn’t much of an issue, but for many of us who don’t, social media can distort our own identities and have damning effects on our mental health as we attempt to recreate this online idealistic version of ourselves offline.

In one of my favourite books – Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone, Harry Potter stumbles across a mirror in an abandoned classroom. The mirror in question is called the Mirror of Erised, in which your refection, according to Albus Dumbledore (Harry’s Head Master), shows the “deepest, most desperate desire of our hearts.” Even the name “Erised” is “desire” spelled backwards, as if reflected in a mirror. When someone looks at this mirror (being in the magical world of Harry Potter) it not only shows your reflection, but also displays the reflection of the version of you that you most desire.
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“Can you think of what the Mirror of Erised shows us all?” Harry shook his head.

“Let me explain. The happiest man on earth would be able to use the Mirror of Erised like a normal mirror, that is, he would look into it and see himself exactly as he is. Does that help.”

Harry thought. Then he said slowly, “It shows us what we want… whatever we want…”

“Yes and no,” said Dumbledore quietly.

“It shows us nothing more or less than the deepest, most desperate desire of our hearts. You, who have never known your family, see them standing around you. Ronald Weasley, who has always been overshadowed by his brothers, sees himself standing alone, the best of all of them. However, this mirror will give us neither knowledge or truth. Men have wasted away before it, entranced by what they have seen, or been driven mad, not knowing if what it shows is real or even possible.

I believe that social media carries a huge resemblance to the Mirror of Erised. When we look at social media, we only ever see other people’s desired reflections of themselves, and only portray the version of ourselves that we want people to see. And unfortunately it is actually a common case where you can see so much of someone online, and believe that you understand and know this person and then when you meet them in person (offline) they may seem like a different person to the one you thought you knew. And that is because they have crafted this image of themselves, carefully selecting what characteristics, traits and appearance they want you to see, without entirely being true to themselves.

And unfortunately, many of us waste away behind the screen, crafting this ideal version of ourselves online, ignoring the fact that it is the offline version of you that matters. This online version of you should not be a goal, target, or indicator of your social standing. Your online identity should reflect your offline identity and not the other way around.

So this week, my blog is actually a plea. I urge anyone who is reading this to do just one thing. Be true to yourself both online and offline. Your identity is yours alone and it is your actions both online and offline which defines you. We here at CyberSmarties believe that if social media is used incorrectly, it can not only effect your happiness, but it can have lasting negative repercussions on your mental health and wellbeing, but you can also lose touch with your true identity in pursuit of a better one. So be yourself, and don’t chase a desired image of yourself that you believe will be most liked by others. And don’t be fooled by everyone else’s online personalities either. Social media is the real Mirror of Erised, and as Albus Dumbledore advised Harry,

“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”

Staying true to yourself was originally published on Cybersmarties Blog

Technology for Wellbeing

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Wenqian Xu
System Administrator of Cybersmarties Ltd.

The definition of wellbeing seems very simple. According to Wikipedia, wellbeing is defined as “The state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy”. But wellbeing in reality is very difficult to define. On the other hand, approaches to achieving wellbeing are various; there are millions of ways to achieve wellbeing. In this blog, I would like to talk about the impact of technology to wellbeing and efforts Cybersmarties have made so far.

I always believe that technology itself makes no sense unless it is combined with real life. Actually, technology originally comes from real life and therefore should mirror real life. Personally, I’m a fan of Apple. Of course, I was a fan of former Apple CEO – Steve Jobs. I read his biography, watched his public speaking etc. I strongly agreed with one of his views on Apple where he said Apple was – “Standing in the intersection of technology and the humanities”. I watched almost every product announcement event from Apple and liked to watch related evaluation videos of every generation of Apple products. To be honest, I don’t understand why people always complain that Apple is losing its creativity. In my opinion, they’re doing better and better to make their products “stand better at the intersection of technology and the humanities.” I suppose no matter how high the technology is, eventually it should benefit the most of society. Otherwise, such technology is still at the theory level and needs to be improved.

It’s very similar with Cybersmarties. Cybersmarties is the first educational social network specifically for primary school kids. As Manager of the Technical Team, I’m pretty proud that we’re creating something unique which benefits primary school kids to not only deal with cyberbullying, but also teaches kids how to change their behaviour online in a positive way making social media a better place in the future and advancing humankind. We call it – Behavioural Technology. In our unique Behavioural Technology, except for the SMART Content Filter System, Flag Report System and Reward System which I introduced in my previous blogs before, we also designed and created a new system called the Wellbeing System during the summer.

There are lots of courses on the Internet to teach people how to achieve wellbeing. However, there are also millions of self-paced online educational systems which allow people to self-study and track their learning progress at any time. Cybersmarties combined these two types together and released our self-paced learning system – Wellbeing System on the 9thSept 2016. Considering different scenarios for teachers and students, we designed separate sections for both of them. For teachers, they can use our “Wellbeing for Teachers” section to watch our wellbeing courses at any time and show the courses in the classroom to their students. For our students, they can use our “Wellbeing Courses” whenever they want to by using the self-paced learning system. Students only need their Cybersmarties username and password to log in, after that, our system will track their learning progress automatically and they can continue their progress at any time because we believe the learning process should be continuous.

At the moment there are only a few courses on our system. However, in the future more and more courses designed specifically for primary school kids will be uploaded. What we are doing with technology and how we are adapting it to improve society as a whole by dealing with social issues is beginning to gain traction. We believe in what we like to call “Wholesome Education” which means that a child has substance; coping skills to deal with life’s problems, confident enough to dream big and see things through, kindness towards others and empathy. Recently Cybersmarties has been featured in numerous newspapers, radio interviews and most recently Irish TV. More and more people realize the importance of what we do. However we know at the moment our job is only to improve wellbeing and we’re open and very glad to invite all people with a similar vision to create something unique for our primary school kids. Along with courses we have on meditation, we’re glad that in the next couple of weeks, a Nutritionist from Australia will design a series of nutritional courses for primary school kids which can also improve their wellbeing by taking a holistic approach. So, people who are currently reading my blog (I appreciate your patience to still be reading it!!), if you are a specialist in a certain field and want to use your knowledge to improve childrens wellbeing, we’d like to have a talk to you and please contact us via our email address – info@cybersmarties or comment directly below. Thanks a million for your interest and endeavour.

This Wednesday, our Cybersmarties Team went to Dublin to attend an International Conference called Technology for Wellbeing hosted by ReachOut Ireland. We were honoured to be the first speaker at the plenary session. The CEO of Cybersmarties – Diarmuid Hudner did a fantastic and successful presentation about our efforts to combine technology and wellbeing. Followed by, Trend Micro, UCC (University College Cork) and ReachOut Australia. Google and Twitter also introduced their own approaches to wellbeing and the fantastic advances which are being made. The conference had fantastic speakers and we had some great discussions and exchanged our ideas about technology for wellbeing for the future. Although we’re a small company which launched in January of this year, we would like to try our best to help the wellbeing of children through our technology.

Finally, Cybersmarties is always upgrading and adding new features to help kids and teachers. Thanks for taking time to read my blog. See you next time.

Technology for Wellbeing was originally published on Cybersmarties Blog