Recent media investigations highlighted the presence of unscrupulous drug dealers peddling illegal substances, including cocaine, cannabis and ecstasy, to children as young as 12 to 13 years, on several social networking sites like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter. The discovery of this disturbing trend led to widespread condemnation of social media giants, alleging that they were doing nothing to prevent such flagrant violation of the law and “aiding and abetting” illegal drug sales.
Journalists posing as young kids or teens faced no difficulty in finding dealers willing to sell drugs to them. A drug dealer on Facebook offered cocaine and cannabis to a journalist despite knowing that the prospective buyer was a school student. In another instance, a dealer posted photos of two large bags of cannabis on Instagram and enticed customers saying: “Don’t miss out.” Other posts offered next-day delivery or “the most official delivery service.” On Twitter, an American dealer was found peddling 150 ecstasy tablets to British buyers for £1,630.
Social media, which attracts large groups of children and adolescents, is giving dealers the opportunity to sell drugs to these youngsters instantly without leaving a trace. Previous investigations showed that dealers were using features like disappearing messages on Snapchat and Instagram to sell drugs. Some investigations also revealed dedicated Facebook pages selling a variety of cannabis products. Even if one page was deleted after user-reported violations, near-identical pages continued operating.
Social media, breeding ground for risky activities
Politicians, advocates and community leaders have often highlighted the shortcomings of social media, including the inability to restrict terrorist propaganda or the failure to prevent child abuse activities. The recent events of drug peddling to pre-teens are being viewed as further instances of social media’s influence over children, along with their failure to act responsibly. Parents worry about the easy availability of drugs and doorstep delivery to children, eliminating the “need to be in a dark street corner or to hang around with a drug dealer to buy them.”
The investigations revealed that dealers used emoticons and hashtags, such as #weed4sale to entice buyers. Menus and price lists of drug stocks were advertised to customers. Photos and posts were used to route customers to dealer accounts on Wickr, an encrypted messenger platform. The secure platform facilitated illegal drug transactions by removing the threat of police interception.
A recent media investigation uncovered that school kids as young as 15 years were selling drugs by creating fake profiles on Instagram, Snapchat and Yellow, a new platform dubbed the “teenage Tinder.” Using social media, dealers claimed to be earning thousands of pounds in a few days only via one platform. They also claimed that nearly 75 percent of their earnings were now being generated from drug sales on social media.
Teens, social media and drug abuse
Recent research showed that Snapchat and Instagram were the most popular social media platforms among American teens aged 13-17 years. Another study found that Instagram had the most negative impact among all social media platforms surveyed. A nationally-representative survey of American teens aged between 12 and 17 years found that 75 percent of teens, who saw photos of other teens using marijuana or alcohol, wanted to do the same. The findings underscored the extent of social media’s influence on teen behaviors and attitudes towards drug abuse.
Emergence of new technologies has changed the face of adolescent drug exposure. In 2016, 2 million adolescents aged 12-17 (7.9 percent of the age group) were current users of illicit drugs. Although social media platforms need to build greater controls into their platforms and increase safeguards, young users must also be educated about various online risks, especially relating to abuse of illicit drugs.
White River Academy, a leading boarding school for troubled teens, ensures that youngsters stay away from drugs and other addictive substances. Our drug addiction treatment programs help boys aged 12-17 recover from problematic drug use. To know more about the best teen addiction rehabilitation center in Utah, call our 24/7 helpline or chat online with our representatives.