A warning parents! Pay careful attention to your children’s social media.
There is a disturbing new trend of drug dealers preying on social media, looking to hook potential new clients at an early age.
Child safety advocates are warning that drug dealers are using apps like Snapchat, TikTok, Kik, and Instagram to build bonds with teenagers.
“It’s, unfortunately, all way too easy,” said Detective Scott Pietrzak who is part of the Mesa Police Department’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, and owner of Online Safety Specialists, a business he founded to educate parents about dangerous predators targeting children online.
With a few taps on their smartphones, drug deals could be taking place right under your roof, Pietrzak said.
“What these guys are doing is basically becoming friends with these kids. Once they become friends with them, it’s easy for them to advertise what they’re selling. Whether it be, you know, marijuana or fentanyl, cocaine, LSD, heroin,” Pietrzak said.
Illegal drugs could be delivered to your front door or hand-delivered to teenagers at local parks or meet-up locations. What is so alarming to child safety advocates is the fact that teenagers have no idea just how dangerous these shady deals can be.
“These kiddos are not even realizing what they’re taking is Fentanyl,” said Natalia Chimbo-Andrade, with the Mesa Prevention Coalition and Community Bridges.
“We’re losing more and more teens not only in the state of Arizona, but across the nation,” she added.
Fentanyl is a substance so dangerous, that even tiny amounts, the size of one grain of sand could be enough to lead to an overdose or death drug experts explain.
Advocates with Child Crisis Arizona said the latest report released by the Maricopa County Medical Examiner detail that the number of fentanyl cases had continued to double annually since 2015. Fentanyl has quickly become the most common drug detected in overdoses.
Multiple organizations around the valley have come together to host educational classes for parents, to educate the public about these dangerous trends impacting youth’s lives.
Child Crisis Arizona, Mesa Prevention Coalition, Community Bridges, and the Substance Abuse Coalition provide classes that help educate parents on the current problem, talk about steps parents could take to recognize “coded language” on their children’s phones and teach them how to turn tracking apps off, so drug dealers could not pinpoint where the child lives.
The experts say the single most important thing a parent can do is set boundaries early on. Child safety advocates advise that your child should expect you to check their messages, and give you access to all passwords.
Before you hand over a cell phone to your teen, talk to your child about a cell phone contract and set consequences if they violate that contract.
The following free classes will be offered this month for parents looking for additional information:
Snapchat as a Drug-Dealing Trend
Wednesday, June 2
10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
The class will repeat again on August 17, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Fentanyl in Arizona
Thursday, June 10 from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. and
Wednesday, July 21 from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m.
Those who are interested in attending have to pre-register for the class in order to get the Zoom link. To pre-register go to capturepoint.com