Why do we do what we do?

Written by Brendan Woodage Operations Manager at CyberSmarties
Brendan Woodage
Operations Manager at CyberSmarties

Every time that is my week to write a blog, I try to think of something to write about and that inevitably ends up with me asking myself questions. Questions about myself, questions about society, questions about the Irish frame of mind, and that in turn always leads me to ask the reader a question too. And this week has been no different. My question for you this week is;
Why do we do what we do?

Do we need a reason to do what we do, other than we feel that it is the right thing to do, and that we have the ability to do it?

I’ll explain where my question comes from before I explain my answer.

I was at an exhibition recently, where multiple entrepreneurs where explaining their ideas and companies to each other. There were people who created organisations for the elderly, organisations to help deal with depression, organisations to create social activities for young people that don’t involve alcohol and while the list goes on with wonderful ideas, each and every one of the entrepreneurs had a personal connection to the problem they were trying to solve. So when it came to my turn to explain CyberSmarties, I explained who we are, what we do, and why we do it, and I could see by the faces of my fellow entrepreneurs that they were expecting to hear a different story. They were expecting to hear my personal journey, or how cyberbullying has affected me. They wanted to know my personal connection to the problem we try to solve. And the truth is that I don’t have a personal connection. I was never a victim of cyber-bullying.

And that is where my question arose from. Do we need to have a personal connection to a problem to try and solve it? Does that have to be the WHY we are doing it, rather than because we have the ability to do it?

My answer is no.

CyberSmarties is first and foremost a tech company. We could develop technology for any industry but when the company was founded, as a team we decided that we would use our technology to solve social issues. We decided that this was the company vision, not because we were crusading do- gooders but because we could and ethically it was a direction we all wanted to follow. We have created and will continue to create a safe and secure online platform for primary school kids, but more importantly, with our technology we CHOSE to solve a social problem. We choose to tackle cyber bullying not because of its effects on us, but because we have the ability and the desire to make a difference. We do what we do because we can.

And that is why I ask you the reader to ask yourself the same question.

Why do you do what you do?

The Illusion of Power


Diarmuid Hudner
CEO of Cybersmarties Ltd.

“Another illusion is that external events have the power to hurt you, that other people have the power to hurt you. They don’t. It’s you who give this power to them”
— Anthony de Mello

Power is a very intangible force. It can take many forms and many guises both positive and negative. In relation to bullying or cyber-bullying, it is the perceived power of the bully over their victim, which causes more distress and worry than any physical act. In a physical sense, it could be that the bully is bigger, stronger and more violent that their victim. In a metaphysical sense it is this perceived constant threat of impending harm which the bully wields which causes the real damage. In cyber-bullying it is the perceived power of the anonymous bully multiplied by hundreds if not thousands of anonymous bullies which may cause extreme mental harm. Likewise it is the perceived power of certain people, which in most cases is not physical, which can make life a misery. This doesn’t just happen in schools. This happens throughout our lives. Bullying in the workplace is a constant occurrence. The popular person in school or at work may also wield an immense perceived power if they feel threatened or on the contrary if others feel that they too will have power by being associated with them. However the important point here is that power is an illusion, it is perceived to be true. Like the quote by Anthony de Mello above, power is given away, it is not taken.

Imagine for a moment you believed yourself to be a superhero; the most beautiful specimen of the human race, the most intelligent person on the planet, the strongest, the most charismatic individual who ever walked this earth. Imagine that you don’t just believe it; you know it to be true because you have the sight of a laser-eye treated eagle. To you it is a statement of fact. Let’s assume for a moment you are a good superhero like Superman or Wonder Woman, who doesn’t use their powers for anything other than good deeds. Now imagine that someone said you were ugly or that you were stupid. Imagine they posted pictures of you on social media, ridiculing your fantastic superhero’s costume. You would laugh at them, feel sorry for their lack of sight or understanding for how could an earthling ever compete with a superhero? But of course you wouldn’t make fun of them because obviously real superheroes wouldn’t do that kind of thing. Imagine for a moment you had that self-belief, that armour of confidence which insults bounce off. The reality is of course is that you are that superhero. You only stop becoming one when you stop believing you have that power and give it away.

At Cybersmarties, we are continually trying to make every child believe again that they are superheroes. Children with the lowest self-esteem are cyber-bullied the most. They are also the least likely to report someone who is bullying them because they live in fear. In what kind of world do we live in that any child, your child, is too afraid to say anything because of the perceived power that these bullies have over their lives. Every day we send a positive message or video to each child, seven days a week. There are motivational sayings, inspirational videos to constantly drip feed self-belief and create that armour of confidence. In the fully monitored site we watch out for the person who cant fight for themselves just yet, who cannot report a message because they are too afraid. Our system catches it before it can cause damage. We are working on other areas we can boost self-confidence and will continually work at ways because we believe every child is a superhero even if they don’t know it yet.

In my next blog I am going to discuss how the act of a group or community to ignore perceived power is in itself immensely powerful. Gandhi overthrew the British Empire in this way. The Civil Rights Marches in the 1960’s did the same with institutions of bigotry. They succeeded because they ignored this negative perceived power as a group. In my next blog I will apply that logic to a social media platform and a new way of thinking in how we control cyber-bullying for both adults and children and use it like it was meant to be used, to make friends and share experiences from people across the world.

Educate rather than Punish


Wenqian Xu – System Administrator of Cybersmarties Ltd.

Man is naturally good and that vice and error are alien to him.
– Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 1712 – 1778

There are many philosophies about human nature. One of them is believing everyone is born with kindness, another is believing human beings were born with original sin. In my opinion, in some ways, both of them are correct. If you believe everyone is born with kindness, then as part of growing up, education, morals etc. will lead you to promote your naturally born kindness. If however, you believe people are born with original sin then laws, policies etc. will restrict and forbid you from exceeding the limits of what a society will endure as being acceptable. However, in this article, I don’t want to discuss the whole nurture versus nature conundrum. What I want to talk about is in relation to children; is education and reward more effective than punishment, or is punishment a greater influence on establishing good behaviour?

I always believe that all children are naturally kind or as in my country we refer to it as of “pure white” paper; no matter you draw, it will reveal itself in the corresponding pictures. All parents want their kids to have good behaviour. That’s why parents and teachers always can’t ignore bad behaviour even when they are told that rewarding good behaviour is more effective than punishing bad behaviour. For them, ignoring bad behaviour may seem like tolerating if not rewarding it and therefore failing in their duty as a parent or teacher. However, research conducted by some Dutch neuroscientists found out why education or rewards are better than punishment.

In their work, they split two groups of children (different ages) to teach them some basic tasks by means of positive, rewarding feedback or negative, “punishing” feedback. The feature of their work is that after teaching, they did the brain scans for both groups of children. Brain images revealed brain areas responsible for cognitive control and located in the cerebral cortex seemed to play a role in why younger and older children learned so differently. For older kids, negative feedbacks or “punishment” seem more effective but for younger kids, positive feedbacks and rewards are much better and more effective.

I believe that we should educate and reward children from the very beginning because younger children may simply have an easier time processing simpler, positive, rewarding information than negative feedback. As I said before, every child is like “pure white” paper. Why do we wait for bad drawings in their “paper”? How about positively educating them in advance? It is about taking a different approach like considering a glass half full or half empty. In addition, our “Negative Content Filter” and “Flag Report System” which I discussed in earlier blogs counters negative behaviour occurring and allows positive habits to take hold at an earlier age.

Based on this idea, the Cybersmarties Team developed a new system called “The Reward System”. The purpose of this Reward System is to encourage children to learn good, positive behaviour, rather than punish them. In our system, there are two kinds of Stars. One of them is a Gold Star, which represents Excellent Behaviour. The other one is a Silver Star, which represents Good Behaviour. Because children like to compare with their friends, we can add these “Stars” into their Profile section, just near their avatar, like a medal. Also, we don’t give any Stars to any student. We always believe professional jobs should be done by professional people. So, we give this permission to teachers who know each child better than us. With our Reward System, students will be encouraged and rewarded for any good behaviour, not just whilst using Cybersmarties, but also for their behaviour in school in general. Therefore we concentrate on the good and not on the bad.

In the end, as Diarmuid said in last week blog, we’re delighted to announce Cybersmarties is developing and building an outstanding, fully monitored system which initially called “Referee System”. With our new Referee System, schools and parents can have the peace of mind knowing that on Cybersmarties, their children are free from harassment, protected and educated in positive behaviour. The Cybersmarties Team is always trying to provide better, safer services to help our kids have a better, fun, creative and more enjoyable experience on social media.

What’s Rare is Wonderful


Diarmuid Hudner – CEO of CyberSmarties

“We need technology in every classroom and in every student and teacher’s hand, because it is the pen and paper of our time, and it is the lens through which we experience much of our world.”
– David Warlick

It’s not very often I get excited. Watching my favourite team win may cause a raised eyebrow but is unlikely to register a change in heart pulse. It’s the way I am for better or for worse. Something which does cause a flutter however is when something new is created from nothing which will result in a discernible change in society.

Of course I am biased here as the reason I am excited is directly related to something we as a company have created. For a long time now, we have been beverishly working away on a system which would ensure children enjoyed all the benefits of social media but without any of its dangers. It seemed like an impossible task but therein was the challenge we accepted.

Cybersmarties had already created a safe social educational network for kids, which is an educational tool for schools to educate children through behavioural technology how to act responsibly online, protect themselves and ensure a better way in the future of how social media is used. And it has been working great, everybody loves it and now it looks like we are expanding into Holland but there was an itch we couldn’t scratch and the Team at Cybersmarties wasn’t happy about it.

The issue was, what happened after school or at weekends or during the holidays. If kids were being taught how to behave online during school then wouldn’t it be better if they could use this knowledge after school to good effect. The problem was, how do we ensure the safety of children using this system outside of school since safety is our first priority?

The boffins here at Cybersmarties have been working here day and night on a system which would detect instances of harassment or cyber-bullying immediately and also provide a Referee System by which appropriate behaviour is ensured. Something which was also a personal goal of mine was to ensure the protection of the child who lacked self-esteem or confidence and who would therefore be too afraid to report harassment until it was too late. These issues needed to be rectified and last week we succeeded. I wont bore you with the number of algorithms and complex number sequences which we had to come up with but basically it allows a team of expert “Cyber Referees” to fully monitor the system in or out of school, seven days a week. This now means your child can use Cybersmarties in a fully locked down, advertising free system, make friends with other kids and exchange messages, play games, jokes and enter competitions and all the time they are free from harassment as it is detected immediately, dealt with and positively educated around. From a parents or teachers point of view there is the peace of mind from knowing that children are not talking to anyone they shouldn’t be talking to, negative behaviour is dealt with immediately and reported upon whilst at the same time the kids are enjoying it as it is built just for them.

The implications of this new system are huge. You need not worry now about who your child is talking to, what they are saying and what is being said to them. That’s all taken care of and whats more, the behavioural technology is constantly moulding positive behaviour, the daily positive messages and videos are boosting their self-esteem and encouraging them to be creative and be the best they can be and the games, jokes etc are making it a cool, fun space for them to hang out together.

So yes I got excited this week. There may have been even a slight curling of the lip into a faint smile, but then what’s rare is wonderful.