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TikTok and drug use

3 minutes reading time
11-17 years
Social Media
Foto: pexels.com/Pavel Danilyuk

It’s actually forbidden – and yet surprisingly present: On social media platforms like TikTok and Facebook but also in messengers like WhatsApp and Telegram there is a drug scene in which some very young users are active.

Drug use and social networks – what do you find there anyway?

Illegal drugs are finding their way into the public domain via social media platforms like TikTok. Under corresponding hashtags, the popular short video app features videos of users talking about their own drug use or showing it live. This goes from weed and mushrooms to meth, MDMA or heroin. According to both Germanyouth media protection laws and the platforms’ community rules, such videos are prohibited. Some videos come from children and young people who get encouragement for their behavior via likes and comments.

Social media has not only made the topic of drugs itself more visible. It may also be easier to find the drugs themselves via websites or groups, if contact can be made with dealers there.

Funny and harmless? The videos convey fatally wrong images

The problem with this drug scene, which is just a click away: the colorful images, the fun depicted, the feeling of being in a group of like-minded people, as well as unifying elements like the music initially seem inviting. Often drug use is trivialized in the videos, experiments are praised and supported by other users. This can create a completely false image of drug use as recreational fun among adolescents. Children and young people in particular, who are looking for support and confirmation, can easily be attracted to such content.

It can be problematic that platforms often suggest similar videos to their users again with the help of algorithms. This can make topics that you deal with more and more present.

What do the platforms do?

According to the community guidelines, such videos are of course not permitted – neither consumption and glorification nor the sale of drugs on the platforms. TikTok therefore blocks obvious hashtags or deletes posts and groups if they are noticed or reported. However, not all newly invented hashtags can always be blocked immediately.

What should parents pay attention to?

In terms of both media and drug use, the golden road is a trusting relationship and open communication. Stay in touch with your child and show interest in them and their media use. In the best case, you will notice early on if your child encounters questionable content or has questions or problems. Then you can find a way to deal with it together.

If your child is still very young, you can also control his or her media use technically – for example, with the help of the accompanied mode on TikTok.

If you feel your child is changing, has mental health issues, or may already be in contact with drugs, there are several steps you can take:

  • Address your child directly. Ask specific questions and be open with your concerns. Sometimes a frank conversation gets a lot moving.
  • Educate your child about algorithms and give them tips on how to handle recommendations from social media apps. Clicking “not interested” helps the TikTok algorithm understand that your child does not want to watch such videos.
  • Encourage your child to report such posts so that the appropriate social media platform can delete them.
  • Talk to trusted people, such as teachers, school social workers, or social educators.
  • In all larger cities, there are contact points such as educational counseling centers, counseling centers for mental health problems or drug counseling centers. A directory for the latter is provided by the Deutsche Hauptstelle für Suchtfragen e. V. Visit them alone or together with your child and seek help!
  • Under the nationwide Addiction & Drugs Hotline, experienced professionals offer anonymous, telephone counseling around the clock.
  • Give your child access to age-appropriate educational resources like drugcom.com that provide information about the dangers of drugs.

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