The parents of a 16-year-old California boy who died after overdosing on drugs purchased on Snapchat made a plea to parents, Friday, to be wary of their kids’ activity on social media apps.
Dr. Laura Berman and her husband Samuel Chapman joined “America’s Newsroom” to share their story and discuss their petition to allow apps to give parents oversight of their kids’ social media usage in the wake of their son Sammy’s tragic death.
“It was the pandemic we were sheltering at home,” Berman began. “Our rule with our kids was as long as they were doing well in school, they could be on social media as much as they wanted because it was the only way they could relate to and be with their friends.”
Berman explained to host Dana Perino that while she and her husband warned their children “incessantly” about inappropriate content online, they had no idea that drug dealers were using popular apps to target kids.
“Drug dealers were basically preying on our kids and all kids online, sending them advertisements for all sorts of drugs, that they would just bring one Percocet or one Xanax delivered to your house like a pizza,” Berman said.
A drug dealer approached Sammy on Snapchat in February earlier this year and offered to sell him Xanax, which Berman and Chapman later discovered was illicitly laced with fentanyl.
“He had no intention of taking that,” Berman said. “And since this has happened, we’ve heard of thousands of stories from other parents where the same thing has happened.”
Berman and Chapman have garnered more than 32,000 signatures on a petition asking TikTok, Snapchat and Discord, in particular, to allow parents to have more control over their kids’ activity through third-party safety apps like Bark.
Bark uses algorithms to alert parents when it detects potential risks on their kids’ social media activity on apps that allow its software, including Facebook’s Instagram, Twitter and YouTube, which are popular among young users.
Berman said that while Snapchat “showed a lot of sympathy” for what happened and told them they were working internally to upgrade their app, they “didn’t have an answer” about allowing parenting-monitoring software systems to be used in the meantime.
A Snapchat spokesperson said in a statement that the company “strictly” prohibits “drug-related activity” on the platform and “aggressively” enforces violations of its policies, as well as supports “law enforcement in their investigations.”
“Social media now has to decide, do they want to be part of a valuable life-saving conversation between parents and children, or do they want to keep letting children die?” Chapman responded.
“Thousands of children are being exposed not only to drugs and drug dealers who are preying on them, but, you know, prostitution and pornography and all kinds of horrific content,” Berman added. “It really is like the dark web for kids right now.”
Chapman advised parents to get the usernames and passwords of all online platforms their children are on and to keep Narcan nasal spray in medicine cabinets in case of emergency.
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“They are lacing even marijuana with fentanyl,” he warned. “So if there’s any chance that your child may try a marijuana cigarette in their teens, you may need this Narcan nasal spray.”
“The idea that you’re not going to do something about it and you’re going to sit there and just let it happen like it happened to us, we don’t want you to do that.”
Fox Business’ Audrey Conklin contributed to this report.