A Dangerous Combination: Teens, Technology and Drugs
FROM CARRIE KUBACKI, HEALTH & WELL-BEING EDUCATOR, UW-MADISON DIVISION OF EXTENSION, LANGLADE COUNTY
Every generation has had its own slang to refer to drug use. However, in today’s world of ever-changing technology, our youth have many new and secretive ways to not only discuss drug use, but also purchase and have drugs delivered directly to them.
Social media sites, like TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat, have created a dangerous platform on which youth can engage in discussions about high-risk behaviors, including sexual activity and drugs. With online payment options, drug purchase transactions can easily be concealed within what looks like a regular receipt. Drug purchases and deliveries can almost be made as easily as pizza. A 2020 study conducted by Bark (an application used by parents to monitor youth technology use) found that 78% of tweens and 91% of teens have engaged in some conversations about alcohol and other drugs.
As adults, we must do our best to become educated on social media platforms and how youth are using slang terminology, emojis and even videos to discuss their drug use. Dr. Laura Berman has openly discussed how her son, Sammy, used emojis on Snapchat this year to purchase drugs that were delivered right to their home. The drugs turned out to be a lethal dose of fentanyl laced with Xanax. She has started a campaign to allow third-party companies, like Bark, to monitor children’s social media accounts for dangerous and potentially deadly activity. Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok do not allow third-party companies to monitor at this time. For more information about this campaign, please visit: https://parentsforsaferchildren.org/.
Here are some other tips to help keep youth safe:
- Learn about the social media platforms that your children are using. (https://www.commonsensemedia.org/social-media)
- Educate yourself on the slang terminology, emojis and other ways youth may be discussing and engaging in high-risk behaviors. (https://smartsocial.com/teen-slang-emojis-hashtags-list/)
- Monitor your child’s use of technology and consider using available applications to help track activities on your child’s devices. (https://www.familyeducation.com/10-apps-for-parents-to-monitor-kids-mobile-use)
- Talk to your child openly and honestly about high-risk behaviors that they may be experiencing in their lives, with friends and on their devices. (https://www.samhsa.gov/talk-they-hear-you/parent-resources)
As adults, it is our responsibility to ensure our children are safe both in the real and digital worlds. The above tips are a start to keeping our youth safe online. For more general information about youth and drug use, please visit https://drugfree.org/.