Neptune Navigate Blog

Tips for online safety, security, and responsible digital citizenship for parents, kids, and families.

The Social Media Marketplace: It Isn’t Always Safe

September 9, 2021

Most of us know about the dark side of social media such as cyberbullying and sexual predators. Just when we thought it couldn’t get any worse, there’s another danger that has become more prevalent and enticing to our kids, and it’s the online drug market. Recreational drug use among teens has increased exponentially. Studies show that 76 percent of teens who are experimenting with illegal prescription drugs are purchasing them online, primarily through social media platforms like Instagram and Snapchat.  Here’s how it works: Dealers post photos, videos, and statuses showing which drugs are available and the cost. Communication takes place through an encrypted messaging app like WhatsApp or Wickr. Encrypted messaging ensures security and privacy so that the only person able to read the message is the one to whom it was sent.  With this type of secure messaging, the buyer can meet up in person or transfer money via Venmo or Paypal. Earlier this year, while in isolation during the pandemic, 16-year-old  Samuel Chapman came across multiple postings of drugs for sale on Snapchat. He purchased what he thought was Xanax but received a pill laced with fentanyl (a synthetic opioid 50-100 times more potent than morphine) and died from an accidental overdose. He was a high school junior with straight A’s and a solid family unit.  In April of 2021, 17 year old Clara Butler died from an accidental overdose of fentanyl after purchasing an illegal prescription drug on social media. The current administrator of the DEA, Chris Evans, says that people think they’re ordering prescription pills, but they’re actually counterfeit pills made to look like the real thing, but made of fentanyl. According to Evans, “The lethality of one pill is something that we haven’t seen before and haven’t really faced.” Stating that “the DEA has removed more than 20,000 social media accounts that were related to drug sales.” You never truly know what you’re buying online or how someone has tampered with it. Today, kids don’t have a fear of prescription drugs such as Xanax or Adderall. They’ve become so common among many of their peers that kids think they’re safe and see no problem buying them illegally. So what can you do? Start the conversation with your kids about online drug sales on social media. Then begin educating your kids on the dangers and risks involved including the staggering statistics of teens who have accidentally overdosed on drugs purchased online illegally. We can’t control the proliferation of online drug sales because there will always be a way to work around the law. However, we can be informed and intentional in communicating with our teens.