Teens Can Learn About Drugs Online
Nonetheless, if a teenager is using drugs or leaning in that direction, the Internet provides ample reinforcement. A motivated teen can find a mountain of drug information online, including YouTube videos of teens tripping on cough medicine and information about drugs that defy standard urine tests.
A number of web sites (erowid.org, lycaeum.org, and dancesafe.org, to name a few) claim to provide a balanced picture of drug use. Some include “trip” or “experience” reports, in which individuals describe the highs they’ve achieved using recreational drugs. These sites could influence teens who are already using drugs and others looking to justify their decision to experiment with drugs.
“I have had kids insist vehemently that there is nothing wrong with marijuana and that you can’t become dependent on it because they found that information online,” says Rodolico. After 30 years of working with kids, Rodolico knows that trying to convince teens of nearly anything is a losing battle. “We can’t ban kids from the Internet, but in groups we do tell kids if they don’t want to relapse, they should stay away from those (drug reinforcing) sites,” he says.
The Role of Parents on the Internet
With such online perils, tried and true parenting skills, such as letting children know you love them and setting clear, consistent guidelines, may be more important than ever. “Parents should be proactive and fold the Internet into engaged parental activity,” says Anne Collier, executive director of Net Family News Inc. Collier advises parents to talk to their kids regularly about their online activities: what sites they visit most often and if they ever see things that make them uneasy.
Parents can also use the Internet to help kids develop critical thinking skills. “There’s a difference between credible, reliable sources and those that aren’t,” says Magid. You may illustrate this point by sitting down with your child to compare drug information on a variety of sites. If your child pulls up a pro-drug site, have her compare the information to clubdrugs.gov, hosted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and www.drugfree.org, hosted by the Partnership at Drugfreee.org.