Drugs on Social Media: What Parents Need to Know

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Drugs on Social Media: What Parents Need to Know

May 23, 2019
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Table of Contents

New research shows that social media is increasingly being used by young people to buy drugs. The same apps that your students use every single day are making it easier for them to get access to illegal drugs. When parents know which apps have had issues, what hashtags are red flags to look out for, and how to have an open discussion with their kids about drugs on social media, they are better equipped to keep their children safe.

Illegal drugs are being sold on social media:

  • New research shows that social media is increasingly being used by young people to buy drugs
  • Illegal drugs are being sold on some of the most popular apps teens and tweens use every day
  • Social media is making drugs more accessible for tweens and teens

How it works:

  • Photos of drugs are posted with captions that include hashtags, emojis, and instructions on how to contact the dealer through encrypted messaging apps like WhatsApp or Kik. Dealers will discourage buyers from contacting them via direct message (DM)
  • The transaction will take place on the encrypted messaging app. Buyers pay using services like Venmo and have the product shipped to them via USPS, UPS, and FedEx or they will meet the dealer in person and pay with cash

Which social networks have had issues with illegal drugs?

Hashtags that parents need to know about and monitor:

Since a lot of networks try to ban hashtags that promote illegal activities, new hashtags pop up all the time but here are some we know:

  • #xansforsale
  • #oxy
  • #percocet
  • #painkillers
  • #painpills
  • #oxycontin
  • #adderall
  • #painrelief
  • #fentanyl
  • #cocaine
  • #heroin

There are several reports about drugs being sold on social media:

[Instagram] has also become a sizable open marketplace for advertising illegal drugs. The company has pledged a crackdown in recent weeks, but it is struggling to keep pace with its own algorithms and systems, which serve up an array of personalized drug-related content.

Washington Post

Growing numbers of teenagers are buying illegal drugs on social media sites such as Instagram and Snapchat

The Guardian

Why should parents care?

  • Some students feel like they can’t get in trouble with law enforcement because they’re anonymous on the apps they use to make their purchases but this is false. Being anonymous doesn’t mean you are untraceable. You will get caught
  • The dangers of buying and taking illegal drugs is amplified by the fact that social media has made it easier than ever before for tweens and teens to access them
  • Kids might be under the impression that it’s safer to buy drugs online than in person

What can parents do?

  • Explain to your children the risks of buying and taking unknown substances from strangers
  • Have an open discussion with your kids and ask them if they’ve ever seen drugs on social media
  • Talk to your kids and walk them through what they should do if they come across drugs on social media. Teach your children how to report the account/post and then tell you or an adult about the encounter
  • Ensure that your children know that buying drugs online - even anonymously - is NOT safe or a guaranteed way to avoid law enforcement
  • Before giving your kids access to social media, teach them to never share personal information online with strangers for any reason
  • Monitor your kids on social media and be on the same apps as them. When parents are on the same apps as their kids, their kids are more likely to be positive. Also, when parents monitor their kids on social media they can jump in and help them before an incident occurs

Conclusion

It's important to discuss drugs on social media with your kids, especially if they already have a cell phone or use social media. Teach your kids what to do if they see someone trying to sell drugs online. Have open and ongoing discussions, be on the same apps as your kids, and teach your children to never share personal information with strangers on social media. Kids might be under the impression that it’s safer to buy drugs online than in person, so it's important for parents to talk to their kids about drugs on social media.

How do you keep your kids safe? Let us know in the comments below.

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