Popular social media app accused of hooking kids up with drug dealers (VIDEO)

Popular social media app accused of hooking kids up with drug dealers (VIDEO)
NBC News is reporting that some parents are accusing social media app Snapchat of helping their kids find easy access to drugs. These parents have filed a lawsuit against Snapchat and its parent company SNAP. Amy Neville's 14-year-old son allegedly used the app to connect with a drug dealer who sold him pills that were laced with fentanyl. The latter is a powerful narcotic that is 100x stronger than morphine and it doesn't take much to kill an unsuspecting user.

Neville, talking about kids who have died after buying pills containing fentanyl from dealers via Snapchat said, "And they're gone because apps like Snapchat...make these dangers accessible to our kids." More than 50 parents have filed what NBC News calls "a string of lawsuits" that say Snapchat "ignored the harms its product was causing users" and said that the company turned the reins of the app over to drug dealers.

An attorney with the Social Media Victims Law Center said that he had no idea "how pervasive this problem is"

Matthew Bergman, an attorney with the Social Media Victims Law Center, is representing several of the grieving parents and noted that calls continue to come into his office. "I had no idea how pervasive this problem was, Bergman said." The attorney added that he had just received calls from seven more families that had lost children to drugs purchased through dealers that were supposedly discovered on Snapchat.

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Bergman points out that while other social media platforms have unintentionally hosted drug dealers, certain features of Snapchat make it more favorable for drug transactions. One is the disappearing messages feature that allows messages to vanish. And the Snap Map can be used to find the exact location of dealers.

NBC's Seattle affiliate KING-TV filmed one overdose survivor as he used his phone and the Snapchat app to find a dealer showing how easy the whole process is. The dealer he found was willing to deliver the narcotics to the survivor's home. "It's pretty much Amazon for drugs," he said.

In a statement given to NBC News Snapchat said that it works closely with law enforcement and "uses cutting-edge technology to...find and shut down drug dealers' accounts...block search results for drug-related terms." It also redirects such searches to resources that explain to Snapchat users about the dangers of fentanyl. Snapchat also helped produce a public service announcement about the dangers of fentanyl.

"Whatever it is they [Snapchat] say they're doing is not enough, and they need to do more," said Neville, the mother of the aforementioned 14-year-old who succumbed to the fentanyl pills he purchased from a dealer he allegedly found on Snapchat. The scary thing is that only 50 micrograms of fentanyl could kill someone who is not used to taking opioids.

How to find out who your children have been messaging on Snapchat

Snapchat's disappearing messages feature was the hook that made the app popular when it was first released on iOS in 2011 and the app became available for Android users the following year. It was the first social media app to offer the Stories format (which was "borrowed," shall we say, by Instagram). These days the app is known more for its filters and lenses.

So if you're concerned about your child possibly using Snapchat to buy drugs, there are things you can watch for. Has your child's grades started to decline, even in those subjects where he or she used to shine? Is your child hanging around a different group of kids? Are his eyes "pinned"? Narcotic painkillers will make the user's pupils dot-sized. Watch for shifting moods from euphoric to depressed. When the child is without pills, he could go through withdrawal which will rob him of his energy and make it appear as though he/she has the flu.

And while parents can't see the content of messages that their kids send and receive on Snapchat, with the app's Family Center, parents can see who their children (must be under 18 years old) messaged over the past seven days. To get to Family Center, open Snapchat and tap your avatar in the upper left corner. Tap the gear icon in the upper right corner and under the Privacy Controls heading, tap on Family Center. Press the Quick Start guide for parents and guardians.

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