Safe Educational Social Network for Kids

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Wenqian Xu
System Administrator of Cybersmarties Ltd.

The last three weeks have been quite busy for me. I went to Dublin four times in three weeks. The first time was to attend the National Finalists interview for the THINKTECH Social Innovation Fund supported by Google.org. The second time was to attend the workshop where we met other 11 finalists, exchanged some experiences of our company’s growth, listened to several experienced speakers from Google, Atlantic Bridge etc. talk about different aspects of company culture, product design, development plans, standardized workflow etc. The third time was to attend the first ever WordCamp in Belfast. I listened to many high quality speakers on different areas of technology, such as DevOps, REST API, Content Marketing, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) etc. The last time was to go into the Google EU HQ in Dublin for a meeting. That’s quite a long journey in September, isn’t it?

However, what I want to talk about in this week’s blog is social structure or social network rules. Nowadays, when people talk about social networks, Facebook is the first name which comes to mind. Few people know that originally Facebook limited membership to Harvard students, later they expanded it to higher education institutions such as Ivy League schools, then gradually opened to the public. However, it seems like Facebook is also becoming the most dangerous place to visit online because there are lots of online trolling or bullying on it, especially for young kids. Although it has an age restriction for kids under 13 in Ireland, kids themselves can easily bypass this restriction and register successfully. In fact, more and more kids are still using Facebook. As we know young kids are curious about everything, especially if it is something their parents forbid them to do. Unfortunately, the more strict parents are, the more likely kids will have a try. That’s human nature and we can’t deny it easily.

So, what can we do about this situation?

Cybersmarties offers a solution: We created a locked-down system specifically designed for kids only. Every child is authenticated as a real child. There are no adult users or adult content on it. Kids can still find their friends based on the same interests or schools. There are no real photos, no real names. There is Behavioural Technology including SMART Content Filter System, Emotional Flag Report System, Reward System, I’m Feeling Sad Button, Fully-Monitored System to help teachers teach our kids how to use social media properly and positively. As Facebook migrated the entire social experience of society and put it online, Cybersmarties is trying to migrate the entire social experience of primary school kids online. On Cybersmarties, kids can learn coding, Wellbeing courses etc at any time. They can check their Homework calendars at any time. Cybersmarties School version is strictly integrated with the SPHE curriculum in Ireland. For schools, we offer different options. On one hand, if schools want to use Cybersmarties exclusively, they can choose our Hidden School option which means this school won’t see other schools on Cybersmarties. On the other hand, if schools want to use Cybersmarties more openly, they can choose our Public School option which means they will see and interact with other schools. But we guarantee that all users on our platform are real kids in the real world.

For a social network, I suppose social structure or social network rules are the most important beyond everything else. Users can accept or reject friendship requests under normal circumstances so we decided to create something new and exclusive. For example, as I mentioned in the last paragraph, schools can choose the Hidden School option. In this option, all students in their school can only add friends from their school. Furthermore, in our Emotional Flag Report System, if Student A flag Student B for certain inappropriate sentences in the private message, because we hold a zero tolerance policy, Student B will be suspended from our platform immediately. He can’t log in our platform until his teacher educates and when happy that he/she understands why their behaviour is wrong they can easily re-activate the user. Online behaviour like all behaviour must be taught and that is why we put such an emphasis on education.
There are lots of other features on our Cybersmarties platform. Some of them I already introduced in my previous blogs, some more will be released shortly. There is very exciting news coming but I will leave that to another time but by then you will probably have read it in the papers or seen it on the news. Above all, if you are a primary school principal, teacher or parent who has kids between 7 and 12 years old, please don’t hesitate to sign up your kids on our Cybersmarties platform via the following links. Currently, we provide a 30 day free trial for a limited time only.
Sign Up for 30 days free trial: Click here to sign up
Email: info@cybersmarties.com

Or you can support us in educating the next generation of online users and keeping them safe via liking our Facebook page, following our Twitter page and subscribing to our weekly blogs to get up-to-date information on topics such as cyber-bullying and online safety.

Cybersmarties Facebook Page: Cybersmarties Page
Twitter: Cybersmarties Twitter

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog and see you next time.

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.

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.”

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.

Guests of the Nation

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Diarmuid Hudner
CEO of Cybersmarties Ltd.

A situation happened on the doorstep of my office last week that gave me cause to reflect on myself and society in general. It was one of those things that happen which you can choose to ignore and pretend it hasn’t happened or get involved. With regret I have to say it took me 24 hours to react.

Our office is one of the old Georgian buildings in Limerick City, beautiful to look at but in winter would make a polar bear sneeze. On either side of the stone steps leading up to the front door there are what are architecturally known as “Light Wells” but would be commonly called basement areas. In their heyday, these basements would have been the kitchens to the gentry living there, and the space outside these allowed sunlight into the kitchens. The building next to me is unoccupied, and as I turned the key in the door, I caught sight of the view of legs in the basement area to the left below. Looking down I could see that there was a man and woman standing down there. From their clothing, they looked homeless and seeing me, stood back into the darkness so as not to be seen. At the time as I was busy, I did not give much thought to the matter and carried on with my work.

Later that day, I stood outside the door as is my habit, to take in the sounds and sights of the City, as I find it helpful to clear my mind. I had completely forgotten about my new neighbours until I had stood outside, and craned my neck to see if they were still there. Again I saw just the legs of these people standing against the wall. I always give to people begging on the street, but then I would walk on, content in the knowledge I had done my part, but unwilling to engage with the person themselves other than to nod my head. I think most people are like this; the giving of money to someone less fortunate than oneself satisfies some moral question within us, it helps us to live with ourselves without ever having to try and get directly involved in trying to solve the problem.

Yet here were these two homeless people, in effect, outside my door. The thing that I noticed about these people was how silent they were. They said nothing to each other, stood back in the shadow of the basement, so no one would see them as if they were hiding. They did not beg or were not drinking alcohol or causing a disturbance. They were just standing there in silence. Later that afternoon I had to go out for a meeting and upon my return my neighbours were gone, vanished it seemed without a trace. On my drive home, it began to get to me.

That night I couldn’t sleep. The self-hypocrisy of what I stood for was gnawing at me. There I was running a company which espoused positive behaviour and empathy towards others and standing outside my door were people who really needed my help yet I had done nothing. I made a promise then that I would help them if I met them again, but that annoyed me too since they had already left and the “next time I meet them I will do something” promise I made, seemed very hollow and fake.

As luck would have it, my neighbours had returned from their travels and were back again the following morning. Now my opportunity had come so I had to act. Getting some sandwiches and drinks, I walked down the steps to them and was surprised how they backed away from me, afraid almost of being discovered. I just passed over the food to put them at ease as best I could. The man put out his hand to shake mine but seeing how dirty it was, he pulled it back again quickly in shame. I continued to hold out mine until he finally shook it. There was a kindness and humility to these people I couldn’t really make sense of. I didn’t want to intrude too much at this point so I said my goodbye’s and left. Over the last few days I have met them every day and slowly they have begun to tell me their story. They are brother and sister. Their names are John and Marie, in their late 50’’s and have been on the streets since April. They had been sharing a flat in sheltered accommodation, but a disagreement between John and his neighbours, who were drinking and causing trouble, resulted in John being evicted. Marie was allowed to stay, but out of loyalty and concern for her brother, she left with him and now both are living on the streets.

I don’t know what will happen to John and Marie. I have made some calls but so far haven’t had much luck so I will keep trying. The Gardaí moved them on for a day following someone making a complaint but where are they supposed to go. As John said to me “We are all flesh and blood at the end of the day”. Their plight has affected me on some unconscious level I cannot fully understand. I had read somewhere before that we are all only two or three paychecks away from being homeless. A wrong decision and some bad luck could have anyone of us being in John and Marie’s situation and that’s frightening. What is equally as frightening to me is that it took their presence outside my door for me to do anything about it, to really see homeless people as being people who have a story, a name, something to say. It is easy to go off on a rant about the government or the banks but that is only deflection really as we know by now nothing is going to ever change there. All that is left is the decision you make as an individual whether to be help or not on a daily basis. Unfortunately I found myself lacking in this respect when it occurred initially, but now I feel I am learning for the better for having met John and Marie.

Only a Closed Mind is Certain

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Diarmuid Hudner
CEO of Cybersmarties Ltd.

“When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth”
–Sherlock Holmes

I watched a film recently called “Dean Spanley” which was about a man, who when he drank the famous wine “Imperial Tokay”, believed himself to be the reincarnation of a Springer Spaniel dog. (Similar hallucinations have long been documented in Ireland after a particularly joyful wake!!). Was this a children’s movie I hear you ask? No on the contrary, it was a very satirical, but brilliantly acted movie featuring an all-star cast of Peter O’Toole, Sam Neill and Bryan Brown. As to the veracity of whether past lives were in fact possible, Sam Neill declared that “Only a closed mind is certain”. And this statement got me thinking.

When I was a young man (or rather should I say, a younger man) I was certain of many things. I was certain that I would be famous, I was certain that Limerick would win an All-Ireland, I was certain that I would one day most likely rule the world, I was certain that women would find me irresistible and I was certain that I would not get old (or should I say older). It has been quite a rude awakening to find that I have been proven wrong in all of my certainties and even though the gate hasn’t been closed on all of them yet, I am becoming less and less certain. When I think about this statement from its truest, non-satirical standpoint then I find myself thinking about the importance if not necessity of having an open mind. Despite ourselves, our conditioning forms our opinions on society, religion, beliefs, politics and people. We are quick to judge and hold steadfast to our beliefs without ever really questioning why we think the way we do.

I often wondered about this in relation to religion and the vigorous way in which people would argue their God was the only true God, even going as far as cause wars in their name. I wonder if their conviction is actually rooted in fear, not in belief. Is it the fear that they may actually be wrong? and if so, would their belief system be shattered? everything they thought or believed to be true could be wrong and so rather than face this, is it easier to rail against it? Being certain, by its very nature, can be very dangerous as it rules out all other possibilities. Being certain excludes all other opinions except ones own and those who agree with you and this could be a very narrow way to live. Until Ferdinand Magellan conclusively proved the world was round by sailing around it, for millennia everyone was certain the world was flat. Within decades, whole fleets were circumnavigating the globe. Being certain that something cannot be done is extremely limiting to our potential as individuals and society. I know that there are numerous things I have convinced myself that I am incapable of doing or am bad at without ever really trying to see if I am wrong. It is “easier” not to try, it is easier not to have to face the truth or work at something to dispel the myth I have convinced myself of.

When we started building Cybersmarties over two and a half years ago, everyone told us what we were attempting wouldn’t work. They said behavioural technology could not be built. They said there was no way to authenticate a child as a real child. They said nothing could really be done about cyber-bullying. They said a lot of things. Tomorrow, Primary schools around Ireland begin using Cybersmarties for the full academic year. Today we were contacted by schools in the UK asking to join the network and yesterday by schools in the US. It was not that we were certain we could build behavioural technology but we kept an open mind as to the possibilities of what could be done. One cannot rule out anything until it is explored and after what was a very hard struggle, the Cybersmarties Team now know that our technology not only helps prevent cyber-bullying by educating positive behaviour but that it will spread into other countries education systems. The Socratic Paradox where Socrates was alluded to have said “I know one thing; that I know nothing” is actually very liberating. It allows the mind to roam the full spectrum of possibilities and I think we should approach education in this way. What we can do as individuals and achieve in this life is down to how open we are to life’s possibilities and how we deal with what life throws at us. We are working on new technology know which pinpoints “creative skills” in different fields as a means to encourage children to pursue their natural talents. We may not get it right, but by keeping an open mind at least we leave open the possibility of getting it right. I may not believe I will come back as a reincarnation of a Springer Spaniel but who then who am I to say…..I could win Crufts one day.

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.

The Inner Dialogue

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Diarmuid Hudner
CEO of Cybersmarties Ltd.

“Intelligence has no bearing on your level of happiness because happiness doesn’t have an IQ”
From the novel Im Happy Now.Com

This week, I heard on the radio on the way to work that the Leaving Cert Results were out. I was taken back to a time in my own youth when the same circumstances faced me. Although I did a good leaving cert, I know now that my results had no bearing whatsoever on how my life turned out, what trials lay ahead and ultimately how happy I would become. I write this blog today for everyone who has just gotten their results but especially for those who may be disappointed and are worried for their future. Please don’t be.

Firstly, as parents, we hope the best for our children. We try and give them the best we can so that they have the same or hopefully better opportunities than we had ourselves. This is only natural. We push them to be the best they can be but sometimes if truth be told, their results are seen as a reflection of us as parents. But if we are to stand back for a moment and look at our own lives, really think about the purpose of why we are living, we can see that it is ultimately to find contentment or happiness and no results will ensure that. I am not saying that we should not try and achieve, far from it, what Im saying is that we have to look at the purpose of our lives first.

To me, life is a series of challenges and the real learning is how to face them, learn from them and strive for happiness. No academic results will prepare you for life. Life just happens. Whether you have done exceptionally well in your Leaving Cert or not, results are not a definition of who you are or who you will become. The only one who defines how successful you become (and the definition of success is different for everyone) is you. Happiness doesn’t have an IQ. Happiness is just happiness. If your life brings you joy then you are an extremely successful person. This doesn’t just happen, it takes work to train how your mind perceives setbacks and disappointments, pain and loss. These are unavoidable but equally so are good times, laughter, love and fun. The question is, which do you want more?

For many years, I looked at financial success as a measure of who I was as a person. Now I know that financial success is just financial success. It allows financial freedom; that is all. It doesn’t guarantee you will marry the girl or boy of your dreams. It doesn’t guarantee you that the people you love will be free from harm or illness. It doesn’t guarantee real friendship and it doesn’t guarantee you are happy in yourself as a person. It just means you have one less thing to worry about. I never agree with those who say money cant buy you happiness because this lends itself to the belief that poverty brings you happiness. I have lived in poverty too and I certainly wasn’t happy then either. All money does is take care of money problems and that is just one problem in a long line of problems.

In my opinion and I speak only for myself here, I have to always be very careful of the inner dialogue in my head. Thoughts lead to words, words lead to actions and actions lead to repercussions. I need to work hard that the inner dialogue in my head is a positive one and catch myself when negative voices start taking control. It is very easy to let bitterness, cynicism and a moaning voice take over and this way of thinking will ensure my life goes exactly in the direction that train of thought steers me in. You are in control of the way you think, you always have been and always will be. No one lets negativity into your mind except you; you are the master of your own mind and therefore your own future. The critic inside is always more dangerous that the critic outside. When you determine that your life is going to be a certain way, truly believe it and more importantly act on these thoughts, then it is inevitable that this will happen. But most people give up when it isn’t happening straight away and find solace in believing life is easier for others or that the world is against them.

Never pity yourself. What other people think of you is none of your business. You have the same number of hours, minutes, and seconds in your day as anyone else. Oprah Winfrey doesn’t have any more than you, or Conor McGregor or an Olympic Medallist. It is what we choose to do with this time is what determines whether you achieve your goals or not. Confucius said “Those who say they can and those who say they can’t are both usually right”. If you have a goal in life; to work in Africa, to run a marathon, to be a brilliant parent, to open your own business, then make the decision and just do it. It really is as simple as that. You are unique and are on this earth for a reason; find the reason and show your uniqueness. One thing I have noticed in life is that like attracts like. If you are positive, you attract positive people around you and likewise if you are negative, negative people will be attracted to you. So be careful of the inner dialogue in your mind, because your mind will always find a comfort zone in positivity or negativity. For those young people who have just got their Leaving Cert results, irrespective of how you have done, the world is your oyster. Go out and get it, make yourself proud before anyone else, live rather be living. Your dreams are like parachutes and they only take flight when they are opened. And always remember; You are the painter, the paint, the canvas and the brush of how your life will unfold.

3 Questions

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Diarmuid Hudner
CEO of Cybersmarties Ltd.

“Humans don’t have eyes on the back of their heads for a reason…you can’t move forward if you’re continually looking back”
From the novel “Im Happy Now.Com”

I was listening to a radio program recently as I drove home from work which told the story of a man living along the border during The Troubles. This man, a farmer by profession, said that on his journey to and from his farm, which spanned both sides of the border, he was continuously stopped by army patrols asking him the same three questions.

Where have you come from?
What are you doing now?
Where are you going?

As I listened to this man recount these questions over and over, I thought to myself that, albeit yes, it must have been extremely annoying for the farmer, but on a different level, the questions themselves could be used for an altogether different purpose. I thought if we asked ourselves these same three questions in relation to our lives, what answers would we give?

Take the first question. Where have I come from? Think back about all the decisions you have made in your past to bring you to this point in your life today. Are there things you would have done differently? Different choices you would have made? Things you would have said but didn’t? Would the “one who got away” have got away? Was the faraway field any greener? When many of us look back at our past, we see the things we didn’t do, the life we could have had if only this or that had happened. Few of us look back at the massive amount we have achieved, the struggles we have overcome, the family losses we have learned to live with, the love lost as soon as won, the disappointments, the courage it has taken to get up every morning, despite all the setbacks, despite all the pain and obstacles, despite it all and still kept going on. Truth is, we can’t change our past, you will never breathe the same air you did a moment ago and yet sometimes old ghosts need to be put back in their closet in order to move on. To me we are not defined by what has happened in our past or the choices, good or bad, we have made; We are defined by the choices we make today because that is all we have control over. You cannot put back together a broken egg but you can still make an omelette out of it. Give yourself credit just for being here today, you are a success, despite everything, you are still fighting the good fight.

Let’s take the second question. What are you doing now? This I felt is an interesting one. Are you where you expected to be at this point in your life? Have you exceeded or fallen behind your expectations of yourself? My friend and author, Alan White, recently wrote in a blog for Creagh Castle Publishing, that we all have a negative or positive perspective on things, people and situations based on what has happened in our lives and the environment we grew up in. I agree with Alan on this. I must have been looking the other way when God was handing out the optimism cards that day because I don’t remember being given any. I struggle with it. I don’t bound out of bed every morning with the joys of Spring, rushing to take on the world with a smile on my face. I have to work at it, tell myself throughout each day to keep going no matter what happens. However I do find that over time I don’t have to tell myself as often or struggle so hard to convince myself because I do believe that we have the power to change our circumstances at any given moment. We have a choice in every situation to look at things in either a positive or negative way, to keep bouncing like a cork on the crest of a wave and to never go under. So I choose to look at the second question in a positive way because where I am today is not necessarily where I am going to be in the future but it’s up to me.

This leads us to the third question. Where are you going? The motivational speaker Zig Ziglar (yes he must also have been looking the other way when God was handing out names) asked the question “How can you hit a target you cannot see?” Yet nearly every major human endeavour or goal ever achieved was born out of such short-sightedness. The answer to this question is that it is possible to hit a target you cannot see. This is where hope comes in. However you will never hit a target if you don’t have one. I believe that the Universe alters or changes with you when you change. If you decide and then take action towards a goal, your mind and perspective will move you in line towards it. An example is a car that you might fancy buying. If you like the look of, for example an Audi A6, then you will see them everywhere; not because there are more of them around but because you have reprogrammed your mind to focus on them and where focus goes, energy flows. This how Cybersmarties happened, one idea, lots of focus and now we are helping children through behavioural technology to use social media in an entirely new way. We couldn’t see that target either.

I always think there are little messages being given to us every day; like these three questions I heard on the radio, these messages can make one reflect on how far one has come, where one is and where one hopes to be. The power lies in the decisions we make today and the commitment to see those decisions through. I truly believe that power is within us all and that’s what we tell children on Cybersmarties, every day, through positive messages; there is nothing they cannot do. P.S Big congratulations to our adopted Chinese Systems Administrator, Wenqian Xu on passing his driving test in Ireland first time, unlike his boss who took a little longer. He hasn’t quite got the Audi A6 yet so The Cybersmarties Team emptied our wallets and bought him a toy Fiat Punto instead. From small acorns…

A future day with Cybersmarties

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Wenqian Xu
System Administrator of Cybersmarties Ltd.

As a technical guy, I always believe that it’s better to do more rather than talk more. Personally, I seldom promise things unless I have 80% or 90% chance of getting something done. However, what I want to do in this blog is to free my imagination and share something in my mind about what Cybersmarties is working towards. By the way, some good ideas are not from me, they are from members of the Team here at Cybersmarties.

As you know, Cybersmarties is a safe educational social network specifically for primary school kids. The age of our users is between 6 and 12. Students at such an age are naturally curious about everything. They love to experiment whether things are good or bad. As I mentioned in my previous blog – “Educate rather than Punish”, young kids are naturally kind or as in my home country of China, we refer to it as of “pure white” paper. No matter what you draw, your feelings will reveal themselves in the corresponding colors and pictures eventually. So, we need only to provide a completely safe environment for them to grow up, not only in reality, but also on the Internet. The best way to do that is to create a locked-down environment. The first step is to restrict the network just to kids, who are authenticated through schools as being real kids. But in our view, in the future, there must be a way to identify each person. To prove kids are real kids, parents are real parents, teachers are real teachers, we probably need to use kinds of “cross-verified technology” with unique biological information like fingerprint, facial recognition etc.

Very soon, the Cybersmarties world will be formed into two parts – Cybersmarties School and Cybersmarties Home. Based on research, it’s not enough for kids to form good behavior only during school time. Actually, kids will spend almost half of their time at home. This is why we developed the Fully Monitored Version of Cybersmarties.

In Cybersmarties Home, kids receive every morning an inspired message, pictures, videos or to be even more interactive, like VR (virtual reality). Our System can automatically give some suggestions based on agenda, today’s temperature, festival events information etc. With certain wearable devices (smart watch etc.), it can also combine health data (heart rate, sleep data etc.) to send alerts to parents about their kids. At the same time, parents will also receive some useful tips about kids welfare. Topics will be picked up based on parents’ own browser history and corresponding keyword trends from search engines. Of course, all content will be finally checked by Cybersmarties Experts before delivering to both parents and kids in order to make sure they’re all suitable and appropriate.

In the Cybersmarties School version, Teachers and Kids will have two kinds of roles in the system. Cybersmarties School will be highly integrated with the school curriculum. Before every class begins, a reminder will be delivered with class information and notes from teachers to kids. So, kids can prepare in advance what is better and convenient for their learning. With an improved Reward system, teachers can reward kids if they have done something good or showed excellent behavior. And vice versa, kids will lose some points because of bad or inappropriate behavior. All these points decide whether kids can play more games in the Cybersmarties Game Playground. Also, some certifications will also be delivered based on each kids’ accounts. (Sounds like Hogwarts in Harry Potter, doesn’t it? This idea is originally from Brendan Woodage, Operation Manager of Cybersmarties.com). After each class, teachers can use Cybersmarties Homework system to leave homework for kids which is available from September. So, for kids, they don’t have to worry about losing their homework anymore because they can check their own homework at any time and any place if they use Cybersmarties (This idea is originally from Diarmuid Hudner, CEO of Cybersmarties.com). Furthermore, SMART content filter system will be much “smarter”. It will not simply pick up inappropriate words based on sentiment analysis engine, with each reminder, it also contains corresponding suggestions with appropriate words. In some typical scenarios, videos with results of kids using such positive words will be displayed. Or with the help of the VR device, a VR video will let kids see the result more interactively making it more real. All these methods will educate kids better, teach them how to use social networks properly and form better behavior and relationships online with their friends. We have also introduced a Coding System for schools (available from September) which teaches kids how to code using fun interactive games through our Coding Partner in the US.

In conclusion, some of assumptions above will become reality very soon or are already a reality, but some are not easy to implement. However, finding a way to deal with cyberbullying is still a long journey for all of us. But it’s necessary and worthwhile to investigate and try. The aim of the Cybersmarties Team is to be a global pioneer in anti-cyberbullying and always do our best to educate kids in making social media be an engaging, safe and enriching experience for the future. Thank you.