Communication breakdown

Social media impedes family talks regarding substance abuse

Doug Rogers

Special to The Morning Star

Recent studies have shown that media (TV) and computers have made it more difficult for parents to communicate with their media- savvy kids about potentially dangerous issues like alcohol and drug abuse. Further, the newer forms of media – social networking, texting, etc. have made the job of parenting even more challenging. Social media has clouded our kids’ understanding of substance abuse. Many websites on the internet promote substance abuse and downplay the risks, causing significant confusion for our youth.

Young people today gain information regarding drugs and alcohol from their colleagues, often through social media.  Much of this information is incomplete, dangerous, or simply not based in fact. Social media does have many benefits for kids and families. Enhanced connectedness is a great benefit. However, the risks are also significant. Some of the potential risks include: bullying, exposure to inappropriate websites, and the promotion of substance abuse. A growing concern is the purchasing of illicit drugs on the internet. Most of the drugs produced offshore are produced in clandestine factories with no government oversight and are shipped directly to our kids.

So what can parents do to protect their kids? First of all, parents have an obligation to set boundaries around technology. That is, we must monitor our children’s technology, set clear limits and expectations and then monitor the history of websites visited. Random spot checks are a good way to monitor. Another condition of use is that kids need to obtain your permission before acquiring a social media account. Other simple rules should include using appropriate privacy settings; never provide personal information like phone numbers, home address, location information or posting any inappropriate pictures. Kids and adults should never  ‘friend’  unknown people or share passwords. Be mindful that some young people set up secondary accounts to hide things from their parents.

Finally, it is always important to remind our kids that anything posted will remain online forever! Many companies will search social media accounts as part of their hiring process and things posted online in youth may come back to negatively impact them in the future.

Remember, regularly talk to your kids about drugs and alcohol and set clear boundaries and expectations.

Doug Rogers is the Substance Abuse Prevention Counsellor for the Vernon School District