5 TIPS TO KEEP YOUTH SAFE ONLINE
- Manage your teen’s expectations of privacy.
- Educate yourself on slang terms and emoji “codes” for different types of drug use.
- Learn how to spot potential dark web use.
- Understand there may be no signs of addiction for your child to be at risk of overdose.
- Don’t wait for your loved one to hit rock bottom; fentanyl can kill someone on their first use.
Drug dealers have turned to the internet and social media apps like Snap Chat to find customers during the pandemic, causing youth drug deaths to soar. Social media is almost exclusively how teens and young adults are getting illicit pills now, and about 90% of these pills contain fentanyl. And with features like encryption and disappearing messages on the most popular apps, their use for selling drugs keeps growing.
The Covid-19 pandemic changed the face of our country in many ways, particularly in the field of substance abuse treatment. Drug use soared nationwide when social distancing measures crippled a network built on connection and face-to-face interactions. The recovery community went virtual in response, turning to internet platforms that allow people to stay connected even when they can’t be in the same room. But while this shift proved advantageous for helping people recover from addiction, the power of the internet is accessible to everyone, including drug dealers.
Below are 5 tips to help keep a loved one safe from online drug dealers:
MANAGE YOUR CHILD’S EXPECTATION OF PRIVACY
During adolescence, kids can become more private and tend not to disclose everything to their parents. While this is a normal part of growing up, certain dangers can go undetected. It is crucial to have oversight to protect young adults, especially when it comes to online activity.
Here are some tips to help with this:
- Make it clear to them that you will be monitoring their online activity to keep them safe. This can prevent any upsets when you approach them about something they did online.
- Utilize tools to monitor content and manage screen time. Many programs and software can help oversee what your kids are doing online and on their phones. This can go a long way in keeping your children safe.
- Teens with access to apps like Snap Chat are at significant risk since random dealers will advertise directly to them.
- If you’re screening their accounts, look for users with a profile picture that doesn’t show their face, include drug terms in their bio, or use the below-mentioned emojis.
LEARN THE EMOJI CODE FOR DRUGS
When monitoring online activity, it is important to fully understand what you are looking at. The online drug market has become such a problem that it has prompted the DEA to research the subject of emojis and their use in illicit drug transactions. They have since published a sort of decoder which explains the use of certain emojis in the drug trade. The more educated you are, the better chance you have at spotting possible risks. For example, heroin may symbolize a brown heart or a dragon emoji.
A list of common examples is shown below:
LEARN TO SPOT DARK WEB ACTIVITY
While many of us have heard of the dark web through movies or TV, very few visit it or know how to get there. Unfortunately for parents, with a simple Google search, someone can learn how to access and navigate the dark web. While not all activity on the dark web is nefarious, it is no place for teens and young adults to visit. Some sites sell many things that could be harmful to your child, including illicit drugs. It may be difficult for those who do not know much about the dark web to know if someone is using it.
Here are some tips to help:
- Search the devices your child has access to TOR software. TOR stands for “The Onion Router” and is the main browser used to access the dark web.
- Monitor your child’s devices for any activity involving digital currency or crypto. Assets like Bitcoin and Ethereum are popular payment methods on the dark web. Interest in crypto could signify that your child is accessing the dark web.
- Pay attention to the mail:
- If your loved one is receiving packages that they will not open in front of you, it could be something bought online they don’t want you to see.
- Furthermore, is they seem anxious or have a lot of attention on checking the mail, they may be trying to intercept a package without you seeing that something has arrived.
UNDERSTAND THERE MAY BE NO SIGNS OF ADDICTION
This may seem counterintuitive and concerning, but we’ve entered a new age of drug abuse. We can no longer rely on old adages and our historical understanding of addiction. Today, teens are dying the first or second time they use drugs. They may not even have time to become addicted or dependent before ingesting a fake pill containing fentanyl. There may be no signs pointing towards drug abuse like slipping grades, isolation, or other classic behaviors. It’s essential to realize that users usually do not know they’re consuming a fentanyl-laced pill. The chart below will put things in perspective.
Fentanyl laced pills are flooding the streets:
DON’T WAIT FOR “ROCK BOTTOM”
As explained above, addiction isn’t necessary anymore for drug deaths to be commonplace. So, if you discover that a loved one is buying or consuming illicit substances, you should intervene. Waiting for them to become addicted and experience negative consequences before deciding to seek help is ill-advised and should be avoided in today’s epidemic. It’s a recipe for disaster.
Just take a look at recent trends:
Fatal overdose among adolescents raised 94% from 2019 to 2020.
There was an additional 20% raise from 2020 to 2021.
77% of all teen overdose deaths involved fentanyl.
Fentanyl pills seized by law enforcement increased by 3,233% from 2018 to 2021.
GETTING HELP FOR TEEN SUBSTANCE USE
If it is discovered that your child is heavily using drugs or alcohol, then a long-term program is always recommended to get them the help they need. However, it’s possible that even though your loved one is making poor decisions, they may not be suffering from Substance Use Disorder (SUD). Despite no “addiction” yet, they’ve demonstrated a need for change. Treatment for someone who hasn’t developed a physical dependence may be a much faster process and can often be done on an outpatient basis. The idea is to help the person learn to make better decisions for themselves. Competent treatment programs will help the patient address whatever they were aiming to mask or avoid with substances.