An American TV host's son died in his bedroom after accidentally overdosing on drugs he got from a dealer on Snapchat.
Dr. Laura Berman, Sex Therapist, and TV Host shared her tragic loss to help raise awareness of the risks of social media apps. She emphasised how parents need to be vigilant in how their kids are using their electronic devices.
Just two days ago, Berman's 16-year-old son Sammy Chapman died from a drug overdose using drugs he obtained through a contact on Snapchat
"A drug dealer connected with him on Snapchat and gave him fentanyl-laced Xanax or Percocet (toxicology will tell) and he overdosed in his room," she posted on Instagram.
"My beautiful boy is gone"
Berman wrote the following heartfelt plea to parents to monitor their children's social media use:
"16 years old. Sheltering at home. A drug dealer connected with him on Snapchat and gave him fentinyl laced Xanax or Percocet (toxicology will tell) and he overdosed in his room. They do this because it hooks people even more and is good for business but It causes overdose and the kids don't know what they are taking."
"My heart is completely shattered and I am not sure how to keep breathing. I post this now only so that not one more kid dies."
"We watched him so closely. Straight A student. Getting ready for college. Experimentation gone bad. He got the drugs delivered to the house. Please watch your kids and WATCH SNAPCHAT especially. That's how they get them.
Dr. Berman describes her son's death is "experimentation gone bad"
Seeking new experiences
According to the National Institute for Drug Abuse, teens experiment with drugs because they are "often motivated to seek new experiences, particularly those they perceive as thrilling or daring."
Purchasing items online is convenient, and social media apps are the first place teens gravitate towards.
That, plus the growing risks of social media usage by teens, is a potentially dangerous combination.
Cyberbullying, sexual solicitation, and trafficking are some of the reported issues among young people. Horrific cyberbullying has also resulted in a number of suicides./\r\n/
Dr. Berman is openly talking about her loss because she does not want someone else's child going through the same thing. "Please watch your kids and WATCH SNAPCHAT especially," she says.
Child safety on applications such as Snapchat is a growing issue, as features such as SnapMap give others your location. Sammy's dealer delivered the drugs to his house.
The app also allows strangers to befriend each other on the app and can maintain some form of dialogue for over 24 hours using SnapStreaks. According to Snapchat, SnapStreaks is not for chatting, but rather 'snapping'.
Here are a few tips to help parents navigate the challenges created by the use of mobile devices and social media:
Under 13s should not have social media accounts
You will have to physically monitor your child's phone to ensure that they are not on these apps "illegally". Most social media apps have an age restriction of 13. Younger children should not be on them as they are more prone to risks than older kids.
Stranger danger still applies with social media
Teach your children to be wary of friend requests from people they don't know. They should consider everyone to be dodgy until they can prove that they are not.
Mirror good phone habits
Children learn from observing, so it is important to show them how they should use their phones. Parents should, therefore, be good role models for their kids. You cannot reprimand your child for always being on their phone if you are always on yours.
Manage wifi access
Manage the WI-FI at home and ensure that it is off at night so that they cannot access it. Other parents advise that you change the password daily so that they come to you to request access to it. This seems harsh and time-consuming but could be effective, especially if you are worried about your tween or teens' usage.
Have honest conversations
Create an open-door policy with your child and have regular conversations regarding what they are doing on social media, and if they came across disturbing content. Your kids need to be comfortable enough to chat with you about their social media use. This means parents will not completely infringe on their children's privacy, but be kept in the loop enough to know if something is going wrong.
It is also important to explain to them why you are managing the time they spend on it, the effects, and the kind of content they should not be accessing.