I just noticed new privacy controls for Facebook, in which kids can let others see their posts—excluding their parents. Read more below:
Teens use Internet to share drug stories
By Donna Leinwand, USA TODAY
Ashley Duffy, 18, knew her parents wouldn’t tap into her online journal so she wrote freely about her drug use. She says she used the Internet to contact her dealer and connect at parties with people who had drugs.
“Kids are really open about it. I see posts from other people describing a night on acid or whatever,” says Duffy of West Chester, Pa., who underwent treatment and says she has been drug-free for 16 months. “I think they think their parents are clueless. And I guess they are.”
A study being released today of more than 10 million online messages written by teens in the past year shows they regularly chat about drinking alcohol, smoking pot, partying and hooking up. The Caron Treatment Centers, a non-profit program in Wernersville, Pa., that also funds research into drug addiction, commissioned the study by Nielsen BuzzMetrics.
Nielson analysts used a computer program to search blogs, public chat rooms, messages boards and other places that attract teens. About 2% of the posts specifically mentioned drugs or alcohol.
The study offers insight into what teens talk about online and classifies the messages into common themes. Many of the teens who posted messages about drugs or alcohol often traded information about using illicit substances without getting hurt or caught. Some teens debated drug legalization and the drinking age. Other teens recounted their partying experiences, including sexual liaisons while drunk or high, the study says.
Kids often use code words they believe their parents won’t understand, says Duffy, who was treated at Caron. “You can’t use any words like pot and mary jane and weed because your parents will know that.”
Lucky O’Donnell, 19, of New York, used to refer to cocaine as “yay” or “cocoa” and heroin as “skag” when he posted messages on friends’ sites on MySpace.
O’Donnell, who says he has been drug-free since Dec. 12, 2005, had used the Internet to research how much cocaine he could carry without risking arrest for drug dealing and how much he could take — and in what combinations with other drugs — without getting sick.
He says his research landed him in the intensive care unit just before his 17th birthday. He says his mother found him convulsing on the floor after he had combined cocaine with Tylenol PM and alcohol.
“One site said it was fine, one site said it wasn’t,” O’Donnell says. “I wasn’t able to differentiate the information. You want to believe everything you read.”
The misinformation on the Internet about drugs is staggering, says Carol Falkowski, director of research communications for Hazelden Foundation, an addiction treatment, education and research center in Center City, Minn. “What kids used to learn about drugs on street corners, they now learn online,” Falkowski says. The Internet “erases geographic and social boundaries,” she said. “Kids who live in remote areas can develop a camaraderie online of drug-abusing kids. They can share stories about drug experiences.”
Janice Styer, an addiction counselor at Caron, says the treatment center now urges parents to monitor their teens’ Web surfing and to keep the computer in a family room. “Five years ago, we weren’t even thinking about this,” Styer says.
Scott Burns, deputy director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, said he had a blistering fight with his teenage daughter when he insisted on moving the computer to the family room. He also learned the acronym, “POS” — parent over shoulder.
“It’s a lot easier said than done, I know,” Burns says. “As a parent, it’s hard to keep up with your teens and their technologies. If you’re not tech savvy, if you don’t have Internet skills, you need to learn them.”
The study’s analysis of alcohol messages found that teens mentioned hooking up and having sex while drunk, being drunk at parties, getting help for a friend who drinks too much and drinking until getting sick. The most popular drinks mentioned in the messages were beer and vodka.
In a sample message included with the study, one unnamed teen wrote: “I’ve had alcohol once or twice (once to the point of being drunk) and sex is waaaaay better.”
In postings about marijuana, teens asked about possible addiction and whether it alleviated depression, the study shows. Teens also shared stories about cutting class, drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes and mutilating themselves while getting high.
Another message from an unnamed teen included in the study asked about marijuana: “Has anyone ever passed out from smoking weed? I was at the beach and I just collapsed and I don’t remember that happening.”
In posts about other drugs, teens sought or offered information on Ecstasy, hallucinogenic mushrooms, LSD and heroin. They talked about experimentation with drugs and sought advice on taking drugs safely.
An unnamed teen in one post included in the study asked for information about DXM, a drug found in over-the-counter cough syrup:
“I tried DXM for the first time on Saturday (200mg) and it was interesting. Can I try it again … say tomorrow … or should I wait longer. I read somewhere you should give DXM at least a week until you try it again. Anyone know?”