Workshop slated for parents about social media pitfalls children face
Ryan Klingensmith says the tricky thing about parenting in the digital age is that there is no way today’s parents and caregivers can base their approach to guiding children through social media on how they were raised.
“Parents know how to teach their kids to drive because someone taught them to drive, and they can drive and they can talk about safety and practice with their kids, but with digital stuff parents just don’t know as much as their kids do,” he said.
Klingensmith will address issues of parenting in the digital age, creating responsible social media users and knowing what to be aware of and look for at his upcoming presentation Feb. 21 at Eden Hall Upper Elementary School.
Klingensmith is the founder of Shape the Sky, described as a network of parents, educators, clinicians and media who want to “enrich the online experience for our children through better education and more effective communication.” Klingensmith himself comes from a background in therapy and mental health working primarily with youth and teens with mental health disorders.
In 2012, he said he was new to Instagram and was disturbed when one day he came across a photo of a teenager cutting himself. He started scrolling through the platform searching hashtags related to mental health issues and realized the types of online communities being formed around sensitive, harmful and dangerous behaviors.
He started to ask around to see if others had discovered the same thing, but most adults hadn’t because they weren’t on Instagram or other platforms the kids were predominantly using at the time.
He says a lot of parents who come to his sessions tell him they didn’t know what they didn’t know.
“They always say, ‘Wow, I didn’t know that, thanks for sharing because I didn’t know any of this stuff existed,’ ” he said. “And it’s all kids. I’m not saying all kids are doing this stuff, but all kids can be exposed. I tell parents even if you have a good kid they could easily see other kids doing things that they may not know how to handle. If you have a fifth-grader and he’s scrolling through Instagram and sees someone posting about suicide, will he know how to handle that? Is he going to pull you on board and talk about it or not because he thinks he’s going to get yelled at and doesn’t want to lose his technology privileges? Everyone here has skin in the game and everyone has to be part of the solution.”
The session will address image boards, untraceable messaging, hidden photo vaults and other apps designed to help social media users keep secrets. Klingensmith will also discuss the sites kids are using the most these days, including Instagram, Tumblr, Snapchat and TikTok, as well as youth culture and mental health practices on the various sites and apps.
“Kids are going to make mistakes, but let’s try to talk to them and have the conversations beforehand so they know what to do,” Klingensmith said. “I tell (parents) let’s try to prevent the big mistakes and help them roll through the little ones. But you can’t prevent the big ones if you don’t talk to them first and give them the direction to go when confronted with some of this stuff.”
Karen Price is a