EARLY YEARS: ParentsTogether warns of dangers of social media as marketing tool for drug dealers

Concerns growing, as the number of teens dying of fentanyl overdoses continues climbing
ParentsTogether asking platforms like Snapchat to do more to protect its young users
Published: Nov. 16, 2022 at 5:58 AM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - As parents are often warned, there’s more than just messages and pictures spreading on social media.

Apps, like Snapchat, are often used as marketing tools for drug dealers to gain access to young people. That’s why the advocacy group, ParentsTogether is working to raise awareness.

“ParentsTogether is a three-million-member advocacy organization. We talk to parents about all of the issues that come with raising kids in these increasingly tough times,” says Shelby Knox, the Campaign Director for ParentsTogether.

Raising kids in the era of social media IS challenging.

One of the biggest issues right now is the rising number of fentanyl deaths among teens. Often they’re coming from drug sales on social media platforms.

“A woman named Amy Neville, whose son, Alexander bought a pill on Snapchat that he mistook for something else. It was laced with fentanyl, and he died of fentanyl poisoning,” says Knox.

Sadly, that’s not the only incident of that happening. Since meeting Neville, the group has talked to numerous other parents who have lost their children from pills bought on social media.

Often the drugs are disguised as prescription drugs, vitamins or other supplements.

“That’s the thing that’s scary about these drugs on social media is that even if parents are very involved, and they’re using the parental controls, the social media platforms are not doing enough to make sure these kids can’t access these drugs,” says Knox.

ParentsTogether has these suggestions to help protect kids:

-No social media accounts for kids under 13

-Kids should charge phones in a public place in the home

-Keep the conversation going about dangers of buying drugs online

Along with parent vigilance, Knox and her organization are calling on social media platforms to do more to protect kids.

“Parents can only do so much, and we do a lot, right? There’s a lot on our plates, and the social media platforms need to take responsibility for protecting their most vulnerable users,” says Knox.