According to recent news reports, police have linked a drug named Pink to the overdose deaths of two 13-year-old boys in Park City, Utah. Also known as U-47700, Pink is a new synthetic, opioid drug easily purchased online.
The teens, who were best friends, ordered the drug from China. The drug Pink is reported to be eight times more potent than heroin and can cause cardiac arrest simply by coming into contact with it. It’s been repeatedly involved in an increasing number of overdoses nationwide, according to doctors.
It doesn’t get more heartbreaking than this story. It’s both unimaginable and terrifying because frankly, this tragedy could have happened to any one of our kids. All that’s needed is a sense of curiosity, a credit card, and Internet access.
More heartbreaking is that the teens had been talking about the drug on social media. I’ve personally had a handful of critics challenge me on the ethics of monitoring teens online. They call it snooping. They call it an invasion of privacy and argue it breaks trust with a child. I agree with all of those claims — if the child is over 18. But, when it comes to minors, all bets are off, and my parental monitoring is on. Could monitoring have prevented this situation? Probably not. My heart is in pieces for these parents because we all know when it comes to kids, where there’s a will, there’s a way. And, determined kids can find workarounds to just about any parental strategy. That doesn’t mean as parents, we give up trying.
But how do I monitor so many platforms, my kid has several accounts? many parents ask me. You aren’t alone in feeling overwhelmed, unequipped, and absolutely frustrated. My answer: Just tackle the task one day at a time. Consistency covers more ground than you think. Personally, I check my daughter’s Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, and phone apps about twice a week. I bring up language or content that is concerning and offer her some options. In the course of doing this consistently over the years, what happens is progress. She learns, I learn, and the missteps are few. Far from perfection and round-the-clock protection, it’s progress and it’s working toward equipping her for her digital future.
10 Things You Can Do:
- Check browser history. If you see something suspicious in your child’s browser history, follow the trail.
- Device monitoring. According to law enforcement, it’s wise to look at your child’s smartphones periodically to see what they are looking at online and the people they connect with. If you see any term you don’t recognize or seems like a code word, go deeper. Google the word to figure out what it means. We’ve posted several Internet Slang updates over the past year that may help.
- Check all packages. Take the time to check packages shipped to your home — don’t assume it’s always from Amazon.
- Pay attention to behavior. We can check phones, packages, and browser history 24/7 but more important is paying close attention to your child’s behavior. A few warning signs of drug use: A drop in grades, anger outbursts, change in appearance.
- Be bold. It matters. For some reason, parents can be afraid to confront their children about online activity or suspected drug use. However, this fear can prove deadly in today’s digital world where drug access is far easier for kids, and frankly, the drug composition is can be far more complex. One visit to one of these accessible drug sites and you will quickly lose your fear of confronting your child.
- Censure friends. Go with your gut. If that new group of friends is causing you concern, address it. Yes, you risk looking judgmental, appearing paranoid, and even overly dramatic. But parenting is not about appearances or popularity. Listen to your instincts. You know which friends are a positive influence and which ones deserve a closer look.
- Talk, talk, talk to your kids. Talking sounds basic but make no assumptions. Explain to your child what’s wrong with buying medications illegally online and do it in terms your child can relate to. Remember: Tweens and teens experimenting with drugs are not thinking about the dangers of mixing substances or the fact that overseas wholesalers are luring customers with new hybrid drugs that can be very deadly. Make sure you state the consequences you will enforce if they ever purchase drugs online. And, be candid (if you suspect drug use) that you are monitoring them.
- Install filtering software. Most programs allow you to create a list of URLs and keywords to block and will produce reports on Internet use.
- Bank statements. If you child is old enough to have a debit or credit card, and you have drug suspicions, monitor online statements for irregular spending.
- Next steps. What if you find your worst fears to be true? Get help. Project Know is a perfect place to begin and has resource networks available in every state.
When your kids head to school each morning, you aren’t thinking about them trying to figure out how to purchase drugs online, nor should you be. However, knowing what is going on in the digital world and the threats to kids, only empowers you as a parent. So, keep learning, keep your eyes open, and keep communication flowing with your children.
Toni Birdsong is a Family Safety Evangelist to McAfee. You can find her on Twitter @McAfee_family and @ToniBirdsong. (Disclosures).
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