Why Parents Who Lost Children to an Overdose Are Suing Snapchat

Preventing our youth from experimenting with alcohol, marijuana and other drugs has been a perennial challenge for parents. Today, in our world impacted so heavily by social media, that challenge is now made even more difficult. We know that part of the adolescent brain is geared toward experimenting and trying new things, and that can be healthy and a natural part of one’s overall development. Asking someone out for a date, trying out for the school theater production, team sport or other co-curricular activity, or signing up to take an honors or advance placement course all come with potential problems, but all are risks worth taking.

On the other hand, we know our kids are vulnerable to trying other risky behaviors. Unfortunately, social media provides easy access to drugs that are potentially harmful. This news article with an engaging video explains why over 60 parents have decided to sue Snapchat, arguing that the platform could have made a better effort to prevent youth from being solicited and provided with drugs laced with fentanyl, which resulted in the death of their children from an overdose. One feature of Snapchat that is very appealing for drug dealers is that messages are deleted immediately, thereby making it so much more difficult for law enforcement to track them down should an overdose occur.

"About 9 o'clock, he came home, we said good night and that was literally the last time I saw him alive," said Amy Neville about her 14-year-old son, Alexander. "Sometime after 9 o'clock, he took the pill that took his life. His death blindsided us. That's how we learned about fentanyl." Part of what motivates her and other parents is the hope that their efforts will prevent other parents from experiencing the heartbreak they have endured.

If you are a parent or adult caregiver, I encourage you to engage in a meaningful conversation about this issue. You don’t have to be an expert on social media to start this discussion. Being a caring parent, grandparent or guardian is the only qualification you need. Schools, faith-based and community organizations can help parents by scheduling  PDFNJ’s 15 Minute Child Break Presentation, a free multi-media program covering the latest drug trends and providing parents with effective preventive strategies to communicate with their kids about substance misuse and abuse.

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