Here’s another reason it’s so important that parents know what their kids are doing online.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued a rare warning late last month about fake prescription pills laced with fentanyl and methamphetamine being sold online.
The agency reported that more than 9.5 million counterfeit pills have been seized this year. They are made to look like real prescription opioid drugs like Oxycontin, Percocet, Vicodin, and Xanax, or stimulants like Adderall, the DEA said.
In reality, many of them contain lethal amounts of fentanyl.
Social media access
Although Facebook and Instagram have taken some steps to try to restrict such illicit sales, other apps especially popular with preteens and teens such as Snapchat, TikTok, YouTube have been slower to respond to the crisis.
Marc Berkman, chief executive of the Organization for Social Media Safety, told The Washington Post that his nonprofit ran an informal test and were able to connect with drug dealers on multiple social media sites in less than three minutes.
Buying drugs through social media is “as easy as ordering a pizza,” Berkman said. He explained that people may connect with drug dealers on one site, message them on a second site, and buy pills on a third.
What to do
While parental monitoring tools are available, experts say some don’t work very well, and they have to be allowed by the different platforms. Sites such as Snapchat and TikTok are reluctant to enable them because, they say, such apps raise privacy concerns.
Meanwhile, here are some suggestions for parents.
- Restrict their use of social media to computers instead of smartphones, and keep the computer in a common area like the living room.
- Know what apps they use and use parental controls wherever possible.
- Most apps have an age requirement: Enable it.
- Older teens, insist that they friend you on every social media site they use.
- Monitor their browser history.
- Talk to kids frequently about the dangers of drugs, and explain calmly why you don’t want them to use them.
- Be available when your child wants to talk, no matter the time of day or night or other demands on your time.
- Don’t overreact to anything your child tells you.
- Offer reliable, factual information, such as this DEA warning.
For more ideas on keeping kids drug-free, check out the DEA’s website.