When you think of cyber criminals, I'm sure the image that pops up in your head is a couple of geeks or nerds in the basement wrecking having by clicking a series of keys and hacking into you or your business's computers and network. Cybercrime has evolved over the years from geeks having fun to criminal organizations taking advantage of the reach of the Internet. During this pandemic, there is a new breed of criminals that have emerged - drug dealers. They are using the power of social media platforms like Snapchat and Instagram to target anyone who wants illegal drugs, especially the 13 - 29 age group. How can you keep your family safe? Check out these tips.
With kids forced to do distanced or hybrid learning during the pandemic and with seven out of ten people on social media, you can see why dealers have turned to social media. Dealers like selling drugs on the Internet because it offers a convenient and fast way to sell drugs. Also, online illegal drug deals help them avoid law enforcement. There are policies that prohibit the sale of illegal drugs on social media sites, but this doesn't stop drug dealers from finding ways to find buyers and continue their illegal distribution. Part of finding buyers includes the use of the algorithms built into social media platforms. With the use of emojis, code words, and hashtags, they can direct people to specific drugs, such as Molly (MDMA), Percocet, or Prescription Pain Killers. Even if the sale is made via social media, the delivery of the substances can easily take place at any public place or be delivered to your home.
To help you stay informed, here are some of the most popular emojis teens and adults (and dealers) use for drugs:
❄️ ⛷⛄ 🌨 🤧 🎱 (snowflake, skier, snowman, blowing nose, and 8 ball)
🌸 🌼 🌺 🌻 (flower)
💉 🎯 (syringe, arrow-in-target)
🍁 The maple leaf is the universal symbol for marijuana. However, any green leaf or tree can be used to represent marijuana. 🥬🌳🍀🍃🥦
🤤 😤 💊 🍬 (drooling face, angry guy, pill, candy)
VAPING OR GETTING HIGH
💨 (puff of smoke/wind)
What You Can Do If You Think Someone You Know is Using Social Media To Buy Sell or buy Drugs. We all know of kids, that can be influenced by this trend of selling and acquiring illegal drugs via social media. The pandemic has forced many kids to retreat to an online existence. Education on this topic is an important step to help stop the spread of this practice.
1. Stay Up-To-Date. Keeping up with technology is hard, but the Internet has a wealth of resources to help you keep up with the latest slang, hashtags, and emojis that are used to keep the sale, purchase, and use of drugs under the rear. It's good to talk with people you know such as parents, teachers, and drug and alcohol treatment providers to stay informed on the latest trends. A good resource is the American Addiction Centers at (https://americanaddictioncenters.org/)
2. Monitor Money Exchanging Apps. Follow your kids on money exchanging apps like Facebook Messenger, Venmo, Apple, or Android Pay. These apps come in handy for online purchases and purchases between friends. Look out for payments that don't make sense to you.
3. Get Access To Your Teen’s Gadgets and Apps. You need to have the password to your tweens and teen’s devices and the apps they use. Do a random check for any new apps and communication activity you don’t recognize.
4. Follow Your Kids Social Media Accounts. It's a good practice to follow your kids on their social media accounts. It shows you're interested in them and it also helps you get familiar with the social media platforms and technology they are using. Yes, they can create new accounts, which is why it's important that you take a look at their devices from time to time.
5. Talk To Your Teen. Talking and communicating with your tweens and teens is never a bad idea. Kids sometimes don't see the ends to the means, but a good conversation could be the spark that let them know you care about their well being and help them see the dangers of purchasing illegal drugs online and in person.
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