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

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

The Times, They are a Changin

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Diarmuid Hudner
CEO of Cybersmarties Ltd.

“Time: the indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole”

I am not sure if any of you have noticed the sunsets this October. Perhaps because of the cold, dry weather we are experiencing they have been more visible and thus I have taken more notice of them. The twinning colours of red and orange as the sun is setting over a foggy landscape of trees has been breath-taking to watch. There is something mystifying in the silence of a sunset or of a full moon when everyone is sleeping. I wonder at how many billions of people over billions of lifetimes have watched this same moon, some wishing upon it, some worshipping it but all curious about it. No matter where you are, in whatever part of the world, we all have the same view.

I wonder under the gaze of this moon, have we got the concept of time all wrong. Animals have no concept of time and therefore do not fear death. It is perhaps because they have no knowledge or concept of time that they are generally content in themselves (I use my 20 year old sheepdog “Seamus” here as an example) whereas humans are afraid of death and therefore try to pack as much into the time they believe they have left in order to believe they have not wasted the time allotted to them. This is what is called “having a good time”. For Seamus, all he has probably realised in getting older is that he can’t chase cars like he used to, female dogs don’t take any notice of him anymore, he sleeps more often and is more annoyed by the sounds of imaginary intruders (they could be there but I haven’t seen them). But if you believed that you had all the time in the world (no pun intended) you would most likely be far more content because you would not feel you had all this stuff to do because you were running out of it. After all is it not contentedness that we are all seeking. Therefore I am with Seamus on this one.

This brings me to the point of children. Children being children count their days in the number of “sleeps” until a particular event comes and this time measurement has been handed down by parents. Children under a certain age and just like Seamus, have no concept of time (I must acknowledge here that cats and other species of the animal kingdom are not excluded). They eat when they are hungry, take a nap when they are tired and play the rest of time. Sounds good to me and there seems to be a pattern arising here. My father, who is a farmer and still farming at 83, does not carry a watch except for Sunday mass, which is worn more as a fashion accessory that anything else. He has never had any concept of time. He worked outside until he was finished and if he wasn’t, it would wait for the next day. Dad was always more interested in seasons as a measuring barometer and how nature was evolving, like if berries were out late then we could expect a mild Winter. One of his pet hates was articles in the Farmers Journal by young farmers saying their grass yield was up this week by 2%. He would and does say “measuring it wont make it grow any faster, it will come up when its supposed to come up”. There is wisdom in this.

To me there is a certain natural rhythm to the world. The sun rises the sun sets, the oceans ebb and the oceans flow. We may run around trying to fit everything into an allotted time but time because it is infinite doesn’t recognise our feeble attempts at trying to control it, it just keeps on keeping on. At Cybersmarties, we want children to be children: to be allowed a safe, protected space where they are free to create and make friends because humans are creative and social creatures. When I was young (many moons and sleeps ago) we spent all day down fields, over hills, getting cut by briars and stung by nettles and it was great. I am still for all this as much as possible. But the world has changed, values have changed and how children play now is different to how I played and how children will play in the future. So if social media is a place where kids gather together nowadays, then let it be a safe place for them, where only other kids are allowed and have the TIME to be kids as long as possible. Perhaps in this way, we can maintain contentedness longer and postpone time for as long as possible.

The Times, They are a Changin 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

My experiences of the evolution of IT in Education

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Brendan Woodage
Operations Manager at CyberSmarties

The Primary and Secondary Education system in Ireland are constantly making adjustments to ensure that it is constantly up to date with technology and the best that it can be to bring out the best in its students. The Irish education system is in a constant state of evolution, with more and more attention being given to technology aided teaching, more enthusiasm to bring technology into the classroom and more creativity being emphasised today. I started school in 2000 in Ireland and finished school in 2012 and in those years even at a young age, I noticed the shift in tide towards technology becoming essential to the Irish schooling system. Even in the 4 years that have passed since I have finished, technology in schools have already taken their next step in their evolution.

When I attended school my father always used to remind me of how lucky I was to be going to school in a time where teachers could no longer lay a finger on you. And believe me I was lucky! Although I wasn’t a bad behaved student, more often than not I got in trouble for my cheek and stupidity. So had I lived in the same generation that my father lived in, I would have received a far more severe punishment compared to my customary A4 page of “writing lines”. A punishment which I expect anyone of my generation who liked to rock the boat a little at school can to relate with.

But I always found it hard to relate to that time, as it was unconceivable to me that a teacher would have the right strike a student. It was just a time I don’t understand. No doubt the generation currently in primary schools might find it hard to comprehend how things were when I was in school. Certainly when my boss Diarmuid Hudner was in school, they were probably using a quill or stone tablet to communicate!! (Note to self – do not ask for a raise after he has read this). But seriously, methods of teaching, communication and culture changes with each successive generation and so it should because that is how the human race evolves.

For example, initially when I was in primary school, if there was an internet, I didn’t know about it. The computer sitting in the corner of the classroom was still that early 2000’s grey, and I remember that it was so seldom used, that when it was, you knew you were in for a treat. There were always amazing games on it and even though they may have been slightly educational, I remember the feeling of accomplishment when that multiplication question meant that my rocket flew quicker and higher towards the planet.

So then by the time I was in secondary school, I personally had a love for computers and computer games. So in my secondary school we had a large computer room (this time they were the square flat screen Dells running Windows XP) and 4 hours of Computer Studies each week. We learned the basic use of Microsoft office (which I had learned at a Foróige years prior) and so I spent my computer classes browsing the internet and playing online games.

In Transition Year, we got a new computer room with new laptops and a few new subjects called ICT and Design Communication Graphics (DCG). In ICT we did projects, learnt a higher level or Microsoft office, and learned researching skills. DCG was a combination of technical graphics and working on Digital design software such as AutoCad where we learned how to design objects and different rendering processes. It was also the year that one by one, the classrooms began to receive their very own projectors.

By the time I was leaving school, there was talks of bringing in iPads to replace books, which my school was heavily in favour for as most of the staff disagreed with the weight of the school bags, and the potential future health risks the students faced, like back problems etc. Also, every classroom had a projector and wall mounted speakers.

So looking back at my experiences with IT during my school years, I can clearly see how quickly it evolves and adapts. I can understand how modern primary school students may think it incomprehensible that our classes didn’t involve modern technology like projectors in every room, a computer room or iPads in primary schools, or the internet. And what they don’t realise is that they’re so incredibly fortunate to be the generation where technology is firmly embedded and thriving in schools, and what great initiatives they’ll be fortunate to engage with during their future school years. For example, learning Coding. We at CyberSmarties believe that we’re not only here to protect children online, and teach them great behaviour. But we’re also here to assist young minds to flourish and be creative and so we’ve added a fully interactive Coding curriculum to our site. This coding section teaches various coding languages in a fun, interactive and age appropriate way. Coming soon in the near future we’ll also be adding a Doodle Section we they can let their creativity be showcased amongst their friends. At CyberSmarties we will continually add progressive and new initiatives to our system, to make sure that we’re always providing our students with fun, progressive and safe place to learn, both at school and at home, ensuring they are the leaders of their generations technological evolution.

My experiences of the evolution of IT in Education was originally published on Cybersmarties Blog