Some days ago, one of our SOVA team members had an opportunity to talk with Ryan Klingensmith, the founder of “Shape the Sky: Creating Responsible Kids on Smartphones.”
In Mr. Klingensmith’s 20 years of working as a therapist, supervisor, and community educator in a variety of settings for young people and their families, he has seen many changes happening in the lives of adolescents—one of the biggest being technology. In 2010, while working as a therapist, he began to see how much the youth were becoming dominated by social media. And he started to see that many adolescents to share personal, private and even risky content online.
Mr. Klingensmith is a licensed professional counselor and nationally certified counselor who has helped hundreds of adolescents with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, self-harm and other mental health challenges. He says adolescents are often not aware of the potential consequences and harms of their online behaviors due to their still-growing cognitive abilities and limited experience. Parents and other adults in teens’ lives, on the other hand, are often not equipped with enough knowledge and understanding about the current technologies and trends to be at the same level as the youth.
Upon recognizing this gap between what teens do and what adults know, he decided to do something to change it, so he founded Shape the Sky, an organization designed to give adults the education they need so they may teach their children to use technology responsibly, safely and with wisdom.
Mr. Klingensmith mentioned that just as “you need to be trained to drive safely,” adolescents need to be trained to use social media wisely. Furthermore, he said, “adults involved in children’s lives can serve as great resources to train children about technology. Adults need to teach children to behave responsibly and smartly when using social media.”
As part of the programs of “Shape the Sky,” Mr. Klingensmith developed a series of training programs. These programs are designed to support adults in understanding the online world and in learning techniques to communicate with their children more effectively about technology and social media usage.
We asked Mr. Klingensmith if there were any advice that he would give to adolescents and parents at SOVA. He recommended that adolescents reach out to trusted adults for guidance while using technology, especially when they encounter other youth posting mental health red-flags through social media. He suggested that parents try to educate themselves about technology, in order to offer better guidance and education to their children regarding using social media. His ultimate goal is to “create responsible kids on smartphones, through adult guidance.”
Who have you known who has changed your life with a positive word? What kinds of words do you say when you want to help change someone’s life?