Image by Dean Moriarty from Pixabay

 June 28th, 2021

As our teenagers learn and attempt to navigate the modern world replete with ever time consuming social media applications and devices, we must stay tied to them for safety. Dr. Laura Berman has a cautionary tale that discusses the hidden dangers of children using social media to communicate their desire to use and obtain drugs. She stated in a post, "Instead of writing out words and structuring sentences, teenagers and young adults are using emojis to express thoughts or emotions in conversations with their friends and online strangers. So, it’s important that parents become educated on the language our kids are speaking. " (Berman, L)

The world of teenagers is a scary place for a parent to navigate as children have applications that disappear written text and pictures in seconds to minutes hiding an obvious trail of trouble if it exists. Teenagers have always been able to communicate in sneaky ways, yet, these days seem more tricky as everyone has a smart phone linked to everyone else and societal pressures to be a certain way are as high as ever.

88% of teenagers used Snapchat, Instagram or Tik Tok for message transfer. (Statista Data) Snapchat only allows the viewer to see a post of picture for a few seconds before it is "deleted". This clearly leads to inherent risky behavior as there is a belief that what is sent is neither copyable or saved anywhere, both false. These platforms allow teens to be less afraid of bullying posts as they are fleeting after being sent.

When teens use emojis to communicate with drug dealers or other teens about drugs, sex or other inappropriate behaviors, parents are left scratching their heads in confusion as to what is going on despite the fact that their child may be acting strange. Being aware of these communication methods may help you find an issue before it gets out of control.

Remember that these social media apps are not inherently bad so much as there for those that want to do bad things. Most teens use them for communication and fun. That being said, there is risk as with most things in life and we all need to be aware.

If you watched the Social Dilemma, then you understand that the deck is stacked against permissive parenting styles. Therefore, we as parents are left with a few obvious tools to aid in the process of growing up safely.

1) Be involved and keep them involved! Busy kids are less likely to engage in drug use and self destructive behavior on media
2) Let it be known that their smart phone is on your account and is accessible to you at a moments notice. Therefore, don't post or type anything that your grandmother would be truly offended by
3) Make sure that they are aware that nothing truly leaves the internet despite the disappearing act that occurs
4) Make sure that your children are in bed at a reasonable hour without a television in the room and not up on social media deep into the night. Keep smart phones in the kitchen safe zone for their benefit
5) Have conversations in a loving and honest way about the risks of current life, cancel culture, internet trolls, biased opinions and all of the garbage that is pushed everyone's way on the daily. They need to understand the truth about the negativity in modern society with respect to social media
6) Have conversations about FOMO or fear of missing out. You will not be invited to every event and frankly should not go as life is more than constant social events
7) Realize that teens often lie about their age to gain access to inappropriate websites. This coupled to giving name and age online can make them a target for online predators seeking out a vulnerable person. Profiles can reveal their birthday, age, likes, friends and other compromising information. Encourage them to forgo putting personal information out there for all to see. Encourage them to keep their social media circles tight as larger circles are avenues to predatory behavior
8) Turn off location tracking on the social media apps. This is a big deal. It gives unwanted people access to your location
9) Use the privacy and safety settings that are enable able for the social media and phone apps.
10) Tell your kids to never friend a stranger

Being involved,
Dr. M

Emoji text about drugs