Would you know if you child was using?
As documented in the Prevention Action Alliance’s Know! What’s Hidden in Plain Sight – Part I, it is common for parents to think:
- “My child would never be involved in something like drugs.”
- “I would know if my child was using drugs.”
- “I check my child’s phones and tablets. There’s nothing on there to be concerned about.”
- “My child is a star student, top athlete, etc.; they know better than to risk their future.”
The truth is, however, youth are drinking, smoking, and using drugs – not other people’s children – our youth. Substance abuse does not discriminate, and no child is without risk, regardless of their social status, grades, or athleticism; whether they are known as good kids or risk-takers, every child is at risk.
Electronics are the number one culprit in assisting young people in the buying and selling of drugs. Apps such as Snapchat are often used to exchange messages because they offer a message self destruct after being viewed and are difficult for parents to monitor. In a presentation sponsored by the Westerville Division of Police and Drug-Free Delaware, Officer Ben Boruchowitz of the Powell Police Department in central Ohio recommends that parents reconsider allowing children to use this app.
Prying eyes is exactly what Officer Boruchowitz recommends to help combat these issues. When it comes to keeping up with apps and changing technology he says, “Kids will always be one step ahead. Still, check your kids’ phones often and monitor their social media. It is your right as a parent.”
Keep in mind that phones are not the only electronics assisting youth in drug use. Apple iPods and many other electronics can be connected to WiFi and operate as a phone using those same apps. One way to combat this is for parents to download a network scanner app. Fing, for example, is a free scanner app that works to, “detect intruders and instantly discover all devices connected to any Wi-Fi network in your home.”
In Know! What’s Hidden in Plain Sight – Part II we take a closer look at where young people get drugs and where they hide them and what parents and other caregivers can do to prevent use or intervene if needed.
Depending on the type of drug, young people get a hold of them most commonly through:
- Friends from school;
- Home medicine cabinets that are unlocked and unmonitored;
- Mid-level dealers where they meet up at gas stations, restaurants and grocery stores.
Young people hide drugs anywhere they can fit that they don’t think you will look, including:
- Return air vents in their room;
- Cans, highlighters, pens, personal hygiene etc.; products, makeup, books, mattresses, toilets,
- Vehicles – if they are old enough to drive and they have a car that is only used by them.
When it comes to monitoring a child’s activities for substance misuse prevention or if need be, intervention, Officer Boruchowitz shares the following tips:
- Lock your home medicine cabinets; get rid of expired, unused, or unwanted medicines; and monitor your over-the-counter and prescription medications – especially pain meds.
- Know who your child is with and their whereabouts at all times.
- Track your child’s cash very carefully, or take it one step further: Instead of handing over cash to your son or daughter who plans on going to the movies, use a preloaded debit card and then require receipts in return.
- Search your child’s room (and car – if it applies) without their knowledge – it is your right as a parent. If you warn them you are going to check, they will get rid of any evidence. If you search and find nothing, consider it great news.
- Search their phones and devices regularly, checking browser history, text messaging, social media accounts, etc. Make them give you their passwords. Reconsider allowing your child to access Snapchat, because it is so risky.
- Check your network at home for connected devices that you have not authorized.
- Don’t be afraid to use drug tests if you suspect your child may be using drugs. In fact, some parents keep a drug test in the home and the teens are aware that at any given time, mom or dad could choose to do a random drug test. The other benefit here is that this gives kids an out when it comes to peer pressure. If offered drugs, they can say, “No way, my parents do random drug tests. I’d be busted.”
- Be aware that every child – even your child – could be influenced to use drugs.
- Let your child know you realize their peers are using and why you don’t want them to use.
Education and open dialogue with your children about drugs is key. In fact, children whose parents talk with them regularly about the dangers and consequences of drug use are up to 50% less likely to use them in the first place.
If you suspect a child is involved in substance misuse that is beyond control, seek immediate intervention. You can start with your pediatrician and they can direct you to the best help locally.
Some resources for help if you think your child is using are listed below:
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
Comprehensive Crisis Care Resource Directory: http://www.firstcallnwo.org/
Here at HC3 we offer a Hidden in Plain Sight display that shows a child’s bedroom with specific examples of warnings signs and ideas of what to look for. If you would like to know more about this display or to find the next available event to view the display, please visit our website at www.HC3Partnership.org/events.