March 19, 2012 —

As a mom, I know parents often find it difficult to balance keeping a watchful eye on their teens and respecting their privacy – especially when it comes to monitoring their teens’ online behavior.

A primary way teens are learning about cough medicine abuse is through the Internet. There are many websites that actually promote over-the-counter cough medicine abuse, providing instructions on how to abuse these medicines to get high. Teens are also posting videos of themselves online while high on cough medicines.

Yet, parents may shy away from proactively monitoring their teens’ online activities because they don’t want to be overbearing, “uncool,” or untrusting. But I’m here to tell those parents, “IT’S OKAY!”

I have learned there are ways to be hands-on without hovering, and here’s how:

  • Monitor what your teen is searching and where they’re going online. Keep tabs on the list of websites visited and items searched on your computer by reviewing your Internet browser’s history. You can do this by opening your Internet window and using the shortcut Ctrl+H. Look for suspicious sites or search terms related to dangerous behavior, such as terms like “robotripping” or “dexxing” and pro-drug use sites like GrassCity.com and Erowid.com.
  • To friend or not to friend your teen on Facebook? Friend away! According to a recent study by research group Lab42, 92 percent of parents are Facebook friends with their children and more joining to monitor their kids’ interactions. Forty percent citing safety as the top reason for looking at their profiles. This will allow you to keep tabs on who your teen is interacting with and will allow you to identify any red flags for risky behavior, including dangerous teen trends like cough medicine abuse.
  • Address online behavior offline. If you see your teen using their Facebook page in an inappropriate way or if you see red flags for dangerous behavior, address it offline! Don’t use their profile as a way to communicate your concerns. Instead, take it as an opportunity to talk to your teen offline; for example, if you see friends referencing drinking or drug use on their wall talk to them about the risks of this dangerous behavior.
  • Bring Internet use out from behind closed doors. Insist that your teen uses the computer in a communal space rather than in their bedrooms.

As parents, we have more control than we think when it comes to preventing our teens from abusing drugs and alcohol. Safeguarding our homes, monitoring behavior and talking with our teens about the risks of drug abuse will help set our teens up for success. When monitoring your teens’ online behavior, it’s important to stay firm and remind them that you are concerned because you love them. I hope you find these tips helpful and I encourage you to share them through Facebook.