Drug Dealers Are Targeting Kids and Teens on Snapchat
Social media apps are meant to keep friends and loved ones connected, but some people are using these platforms for more sinister means. A recent study by Volteface found that 24% of people aged 16 to 24 have seen drug advertisements on social media. Of these, 56% saw the ads on Snapchat.
The study quickly became a hot topic for news outlets across the world. In Salt Lake City, local news outlet KUTV interviewed several young people to hear about their experiences. In the interview, an eighth-grade student reported that drug dealers use the “quick add” function to find potential customers. In this case, the drug dealer added the student and began advertising ways to buy illegal drugs online.
In the U.K., Sky News found similar results in the young people they interviewed. In addition, those interviewed said that Snapchat drug dealers make it easier to get kids on drugs. Some young people may perceive social media as being “safe,” so they’re more willing to buy drugs online instead of on the street. When Sky News asked Snapchat to comment, a spokeswoman stated that Snapchat is committed to the safety of its community. Unfortunately, there is no way to identify drug dealers specifically through Snapchat, so other platforms must be used.
Drugs on Social Media
In the past, people who wanted drugs usually had to either know a dealer in person or find a stranger on the street. Social media has made it incredibly easy to connect with others, and drug dealers are using this to their advantage to create sprawling networks of potential customers.
Today, teens and social media go hand in hand. Research has found that 95% of U.S. teens have access to a smartphone, and 45% are online almost constantly. Additionally, 69% of respondents reported using Snapchat. High levels of social media use may explain why so many young people report seeing drug advertisements online.
Preventing Teen Drug Use
Volteface concluded its study by listing a variety of recommendations, including increased vigilance by social media companies and even government regulations. It is difficult for companies or law enforcement to get involved currently, as many drug dealers and teens use coded language that most older demographics don’t understand.
Until sweeping changes are made, the best way parents can prevent teens from seeing drug advertisements is to monitor their internet usage. It’s impossible to protect them at all times, so it’s important for parents to learn about and teach social media safety for teens. For parents, social media monitoring may seem like overstepping a boundary, but it’s an important part of protecting teens from dangerous people who are trying to invade their lives.
McCulloch, Liz; Furlong, Scarlett. “DM for Details.” Volteface, September 2019. Accessed January 31, 2020.
Spiewak, Jim; Jensen, Maren. “Drug dealers find potential young customers on Snapchat, social media.” KUTV, November 19, 2019. Accessed January 31, 2020.
White, Mark. “Drug dealers ‘moving from street corners to social media.’” Sky News, September 8, 2019. Accessed January 31, 2020.
Anderson, Monica; et al. “Teens, Social Media & Technology 2018.” Pew Research Center, May 31, 2018. Accessed January 31, 2020.
Health and Human Services. “Talking With Teens About Online Safety.” July 2, 2019. Accessed January 31, 2020.