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03-28 Sleuthing on your teen’s social media

Sleuthing on your teen’s social media

Parents, once watched in their youth, have become the watchers. It may feel awkward to spy online, logging on to Instagram to see if your teen is connecting with potential drug dealers – if not bragging with selfies of substance use. According to the, monitoring online activity may be worth it, as it reveals, out of at least 50 Instagram drug dealer accounts:

  • 82 percent sell marijuana
  • 58 percent sell codeine syrup
  • 20 percent sell designer drug MDMA
  • 16 percent sell Xanax

Access and anonymity are easier for teens than ever before.

Why social media?

Jiebo Luo is a professor of computer science at the University of Rochester. Recently, he and his colleagues demonstrated more efficient reporting of teen substance consumption using the demographic’s own social media posts. Analyzing adolescent social media pictures, coded hashtags and connections allow researchers to get more holistic, self-reported data in an “undisturbed state.”

This method stands in contrast to traditional studies, wherein teenagers might not be forthcoming when responding to the federal government’s administered surveys about alcohol. Additionally, respondents to such surveys are likely not a representative sample.

What’s good for the gander features an expose detailing how drug users and suppliers brazenly take advantage of the easiest route of exchange today.

“In less than five minutes, a person can go from having zero contacts that could supply him or her with illegal substances to one text message away from LSD, cocaine or even illegal weapons. It’s a dangerous side effect of the social media boom that has given anyone, especially teens, access to the world of hardcore drug abuse. … The word ‘obvious’ is an understatement for how these dealers operate. With usernames like ‘ihavedrugs4sale.’ and drug-riddled posts/pictures, these guys (and girls) eagerly flaunt their offerings.”

Authorities in Jacksonville, Florida, admit the ever-changing aliases, constantly emerging instant messaging and coded hashtags change so quickly, crimes are happening right under parents and police’s noses.

It follows then, if the dealers and users are so bold as to use social media to hook up, parents should feel just as free to monitor their adolescent’s habits using the very same forum.

Social media monitoring

Foremost, it’s important to open the door to communication before checking up on a teen online. recommends asking the teen to give a tutorial on Instagram. Observe his or her openness, view contacts, photos and ensure that his or her profile is private.

Red flags

Hashtags. Officer Melissa Bujeda of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office recommends checking a teen’s social media search history for popular drug-related hashtags. created a wordcloud compiling top-coded hashtags for substance exchange like: purp, lean, dank, nosealnodeal, bricks and xannies.

No search history. Bujeda warns if history has been cleared on the phone or computer, take it away. She says someone with something to hide will continually cover up activity.

“You have to be the parent, you have to be monitoring the phone, you have to be in charge,” she emphasized.

If something is found

A loved one who discovers imagery, connections or jargon related to substance abuse should pause to digest the revelation before jumping to inquisition or punitive measures. If the find parallels other signs of use, remain calm, get professional guidance and proceed to discuss next steps.

Sovereign Health in Rancho San Diego is aimed toward rehabilitating teenagers of ages 12 to 17 overcome in substance abuse and/or mental disorder. We speak their language. Call our 24/7 helpline for details.

About the author

Sovereign Health Group staff writer Kristin Currin is a mindful spirit swimming in metaphysical pools with faith as her compass. Her cover: a 30s-something Cinderella breadwinner of an all-sport blended family. Her repertoire includes writing poetry, lifestyle articles and TV news; editing, radio production and on-camera reporting. For more information and other inquiries about this media, contact the author at

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