Ryan Klingensmith, a nationally certified counselor who lives in Pittsburgh, couldn’t believe what he found the first time he clicked on the popular social media photo-sharing platform Instagram.

“I downloaded the app because I thought it was a place to work on photos, but when I started looking around I realized it had blogs and places where people socialized,” Klingensmith said. “When I began reading, I came across postings by some young people, they were sharing things that they should have been talking to their parents about, it seemed to me, or asking for professional help. It troubled me and I deleted the app but couldn’t help thinking about it.”

Those troubling thoughts led Klingensmith back to the Internet to explore the many image boards, blogs and social media sites where gossip, bullying and other dangerous behaviors might lurk. He then took what he learned to teachers conferences, health care training sessions and schools throughout the region.

Klingensmith is coming to Margaret Bell Miller Middle School auditorium in Waynesburg from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday to show parents, grandparents, caregivers and teachers from area districts how to access and communicate on Instagram, Tumblr, Snapchat and a variety of other social media sites.

“If you saw a text message a child had sent with hashtags, would you know what it meant?” he said.

Indeed, the Internet has grown light years beyond just talking to family and friends on Facebook, shopping, or sending photos in an email, he said.

“How many parents even know about this new layer of the Internet called Web 2? Or how to access the sites where people, including young people, socialize?” Klingensmith said. “There’s more layers of communication now, more links from site to site and our kids are already there. How can you talk to them about it if you don’t even know the language?”

More to the point: What do parents know about those dangerous curves on the Internet highway where “screenagers” now cruise?

“When your kids learn to drive, you don’t just hand them the keys and say ‘Good luck,’” he said. “You’re there with them in the passenger’s seat as they learn to be safe drivers.”

Klingensmith’s presentation of “Social Media and Youth Technology – Trends for Parents” is free and includes information on current intervention programs and practices and the latest research on cyberbullying.

This program is for adults and is sponsored by Margaret Bell Miller Parent Teacher Organization. Go to www.shapethesky.org for more information.

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