As cannabis becomes legal in more states, the internet, and federal prohibition complicate regulations and rules regarding sharing, posting, and viewing marijuana-related content. While the internet can be a valuable tool for school-aged kids and those utilizing advertising and measurement services, it can also be dangerous for naive young people with newfound freedom.
As adults, it’s essential to go over the basics of social media safety and monitor the content and other accounts that our younger people are exposed to. Continue reading as we discuss the latest concerns about weed Instagram and what can be done to help prepare our teens to be cautious online.
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Marijuana and Federal Laws
The legal cannabis industry has recently been a hot political topic in America. With more states legalizing marijuana, at least on a medical scale, more companies are capitalizing on the market growth.
As for the numbers, legal cannabis sales exceeded 20 billion dollars in 2020, with a projected sales growth of 30 billion by 2025. That’s approximately sixty-seven percent more cannabis sales nationwide than in pre-pandemic 2019. It’s an industry that’s growing at record speed in the U.S.
In the United States, marijuana is illegal on a federal level for recreational and medical use. According to the Controlled Substances Act, cannabis is listed as a “Schedule I” controlled substance, meaning it has a high potential for abuse and no significant medicinal benefits.
The 2018 United States Farm Bill has legalized hemp and any cannabis plant containing less than 0.3% THC; however, marijuana use and cultivation are still federally prohibited.
Since Colorado legalized marijuana in 2012, more and more states are decriminalizing marijuana, at the very least. Some states legalize marijuana medically, while others have also legalized recreational marijuana use.
The vast range of recreational and medical marijuana laws in illegal and legal states makes for an uphill battle for dispensaries and cannabis cultivators.
Recent Reports: Teens, Drugs & Instagram
Per a recent report from the Tech Transparency Project, Instagram can sometimes recommend drug dealers’ accounts and drug-related hashtags to minors online.
The report follows recent and increased inquiries into how Instagram and Facebook affect adolescent and teen users’ mental and physical health. It used fake accounts to simulate what a typical minor user would experience on Instagram.
TTP’s findings included:
- When a teen user logged into Instagram, it took just two clicks to reach an account for a Xanax dealer. In contrast, it took five for the teen to log out of their account.
- Instagram bans some drug-related hashtags like #mdma, but if the user searches for #mdma, Instagram on this browser auto-filled alternative hashtags for that drug into the search bar. This leads them to see photos and videos about drugs more frequently with use.
- When a teen followed a drug dealer on Instagram, the platform began recommending other drug-related accounts, highlighting how the algorithms keep young people active regardless of harmful content.
- Drug dealers operate their businesses on Instagram, offering various pills, including opioids. Many dealer accounts mention drugs directly to advertise their services and allow users to find drugs they are offering via direct message.
- Despite Instagram’s pledge to automatically make all minor accounts private, TTP found that it was just for accounts created through the mobile app and not for minor users on the browser.
8 Tips for Staying Safe Online
For parents and teens, staying safe online should be a top priority. Below, we have included eight tips for keeping yourself safe on the internet and social media apps.
Be sure to select the highest privacy settings to secure your account. You can control data and cookies with browser settings. Only allow essential cookies from Instagram, so you’re giving as little data to the company as possible.
When creating passwords, be sure to use a mixture of letters, numbers, and symbols. Try not to use basic personal information like birthdays or names.
You want it to be challenging to crack. You can even use tools from other companies, like Apple’s two-step verification and Face ID, to control your account.
Potential Consequences of Posting
Posting is forever on the internet. Yes, you can delete things, but that doesn’t mean it goes away. Think before posting, and always make sure your content is as private as possible.
Keep Personal Information offline
DO NOT share the following information with people you don’t know:
- social security number
- school name
- frequented locations
- last name
Know how to block and report
Every app has settings for blocking and reporting accounts and content. If you see anything relating to drug dealers online or drug-related content, reporting these accounts will notify Instagram, and blocking will keep you from having to see the content.
Don’t talk to strangers.
Similar to real life as a young person, don’t talk to people you don’t know or at least proceed with caution, especially do not share personal information or offer them money.
Don’t Compare your Life
Social media is not real life. At best, it’s the highlight reel, rarely equally showing the ups and downs. It’s okay to follow people that inspire you, but don’t compare. Research has shown that social media can affect adolescents’ self-esteem and confidence due to comparing themselves to others. Despite what you may see, nobody’s life is perfect, and everyone has bad days. Keep that in mind.
Set App Limits
Spending too much time online can be detrimental to your mental and physical health. It can also lead to addiction and feelings of loneliness and envy. Most phones offer app limits so that you can monitor your screen time and remind yourself and teen users to take a step back and unplug.
Research is still being done on the effects of Instagram on teens and adolescents. Parents, legal advocates, and law enforcement is demanding changes around drug-related content for teens.
Instagram chief, Adam Mosseri, has recently met with Congress to propose ways that the company can update certain features and improve security methods to keep drug-related services off of Facebook and Instagram. Hopefully, these changes will work towards protecting the physical and mental health of our country’s youth.
For now, businesses can continue to utilize Facebook products analytics and to provide straightforward data reports to consumers about their data. As parents and concerned adults, talk with the teens in your life about staying safe on the internet so that they know the signs.