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.

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