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By Shelley Sheets, for the Southside Messenger
FARMVILLE – On Friday, February 24th from 6-8p.m., DARE Community Night was held at Prince Edward County Middle School. Parents, students and community members gathered to hear the wealth of information that was provided. Numerous important topics were covered including current drug trends, school safety, gangs, and bullying.
The average amount of time a teenager spends online is nine hours a day, that does not include the time that they are in school. So, if you factor in your child’s school day being seven hours long + eight hours of sleep + nine hours a day being spent online, that equals 24 hours. 24 hours = one full day! This statistic is very frightening. It implies that if our children go to school and get a good night’s rest, the rest of their day may be completely monopolized by anything and everything that is on the internet. As parents, we can have at least a small amount of peace knowing that our children’s internet activity is being monitored by the school system. As far as the other nine hours a day goes, most teens use a cell phone, a tablet or a laptop when utilizing the internet. Each of these gadgets can be quite difficult to gain access to if the individual has locked them with a password or even better, a fingerprint. There are even apps for smart devices to notify the owner of intruder alerts. Guess what, parents? WE are the intruders.
Investigator Hamlet Hood, Jr. informed the crowd of this startling information regarding the internet. Another alarming fact is that sometimes parents are led to believe that their child is completely safe online because she gave her parents the password to her Facebook account and, the family’s desktop computer is located in a public room of the house so, internet activity is always being monitored. While it is completely possible that a child may have provided their parents with their Facebook password, that really means very little in today’s ever changing popularity social media sites. Investigator Hood went on to share that so often, a teenager will keep a Facebook page open and actively post on it in an attempt to “keep Mom and Dad happy.” Now, everyone already knows about Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, these sites can be dangerous if not properly monitored. However, most of the parents in attendance had never even heard of the majority of the social media sites that Investigator Hood discussed. Some of the sites reviewed included Kik, Whatsapp, Tinder, YikYak, OoVoo, Meetme, Omegle and Whisper. Do you recognize all of these? These sites provide outlets that range from meeting new people to divulging a most personal secret privately. Sadly, these apps also provide a method for someone to bully others. Who needs to tease anyone in the cafeteria anymore to get noticed when there is mass social media site available for that and at no cost. Many of these apps also serve as a way for different gang members to find a possible new recruit and all of these sites can be used as a selection tool for sexual predators both male and female.
Lieutenant Sonya Walker gave an incredible informative presentation on current drug trends. Sadly, in addition to heroin making a huge comeback, synthetic drugs have become widely popular. Fortunately, there are now laws in place to try and keep all of these deadly drugs out of Virginia. However, the substances are still around, you just have to know where to look. The two synthetic drugs that have gained great popularity are Spice and Bath Salts. Both illegal substances are affordable and could easily be purchased by a group of children pooling their lunch money together.
Please understand this is not the same spice like you flavor food with or find in your seasonings cabinet but, synthetic marijuana. That’s right, Spice (K2) = Synthetic Marijuana. One use can result in death. Spice is a mixture of herbs and spices sprayed with synthetic chemicals similar to THC in marijuana; however, it is much more powerful. It is not marijuana; it is however, a very dangerous hallucinogenic drug. It is often intentionally mislabeled as an herbal incense or potpourri. In addition, it is marked as “not for human consumption.” Side effects of Spice/K2/Synthetic Marijuana can include depression, paranoia, psychosis, cardiac arrest, sleeplessness for days, seizures and suicidal thoughts. The packaging for Spice is very visually appealing to a young customer base. The labels are often vividly colored with intriguing fonts and popular adolescent images. Spice also comes in a variety of flavors that are often popular among younger individuals including cotton candy, bubble gum, strawberry, fruit punch and many more. In locations where it is still legal to sell, it can be purchased by anyone of any age – that’s right, even your eight-year-old could legally buy Spice if in the right state. Sad but true.
Bath Salts is another popular synthetic drug. Once again, these Bath Salts are not to be confused with what one would put in the tub to soak in. These Bath Salts are Synthetic Cocaine, PCP and LSD. Just like Spice, Bath Salts are very appealing to the younger population. These drugs usually come in packaging that is very similar to a lip gloss container, and its labeling is even more geared towards the adolescent (and younger) population as it will often have pictures of superheroes on the front, including Superman. And, if not tempted enough, the product can often be found wedged between candies in the candy isle. Some of the names given to Bath Salts include Toilet Bowl Cleaner, Plant Food, Fertilizer, Scarface and Hurricane Charley. Bath Salts are deliberately mislabeled and have a warning on the product that states, “not for human consumption.” Bath Salts are used in the same manner as cocaine and methamphetamine. It can be snorted, smoked, injected and swallowed. Some of the many potential side effects of Bath Salts include agitation, super human strength, paranoia, kidney failure, elevated blood pressure, increased heart rate and hallucinations.
Please be aware that although it is illegal for our children to buy these drugs or alcohol, it doesn’t stop the substance from being present in our community. As we all know, most purchases can be made with a simple click on a button of a computer or, walking down the street or, maybe a teen’s friend just wants him to try this Spice or Bath Salts just one time. Sadly, all it takes is one time for us to lose our child. Let’s don’t be victims, knowledge is power, take time and get involved! I D.A.R.E. you!