#parent | #kids | The new drug market: Secret social media drug deals

Video memories are all the Berman family have left of their sweet boy Sammy, who died at 16 after a fatal, first time drug use. 

“Like most parents we had no idea that drug dealers were preying on our children on Snapchat and other social media platform,” Dr. Laura Berman said.

The Bermans said their son’s drug dealer found him on the social media app Snapchat. 

Experts in the fast-changing world of drug selling say pushers are now moving from shady street corners to finding kids on social media.  

Oftentimes, they use emojis instead of words to place drug orders.  

The cute symbols help kids evade the potentially prying eyes of parents, according to law enforcement.

Ray Donovan is the special agent in charge of the New York Drug Enforcement Agency office. 

“Everything from Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook — Young drugs are traffickers, utilizing technology to advance their market and deliver drugs to kids. One pill could certainly kill.”

In New York, cops are making headway in closing down the drug trade.   

Fentanyl seizures are soaring according to the DEA, up more than 200% compared with last year.  

However, overdose deaths are still heartbreaking, with a full 75% now linked to killer fentanyl, according to the New York City Department of Health.

Titania Jordan is with “Bark”, one of the many third party social media monitoring apps. It does what no parent can do: Constantly scan cellphone usage, to warn you of potentially  unsafe interactions.

In 2020, Bark analyzed more than two billion social media interactions on 30 plus platforms, finding 78% of tweens and 91% of teens engaged in conversations surrounding drugs and alcohol.

“Strangers can send your child DMs.  They do and they will. Don’t give your child a cellphone and think, alright,” Jordan said.

Bark is a paid service for parents, but also gives free monitoring to nearly 3,000 schools in the United States,  but services like this can’t be everywhere. That’s because some social media platforms block them — even for young users. 

The Berman family is hoping others will help fight back against that, starting a petition at change.org

Snapchat and TikTok are wildly popular with kids, and while both offer in-app parental controls, both prohibit monitoring apps. 

The Bermans started their petition to change that saying a warning from a monitoring service could have saved Sammy’s life. 

“We would then get to rush into our child’s room and see what’s going on and find them still alive before they made this decision, instead of what happened to us,” said Sam Chapman of losing his boy to one dose of a fentanyl-laced pill.

On blocking these potentially life-saving monitoring apps, Snapchat in a statement said in part that they are “exploring new tools we can offer parents to help protect their kids… our goal is to deliver solutions that work effectively and reliably without compromising the security and data privacy of our community.”

The Bermans hope their story can change the future for others, so no family is left with only recorded love because a drug dealer found them on social media.

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