Parents. The Anti Drug Prevention program advocates espionage?

The White House urges parents to break into their kids’ emails, instant messages and MySpace accounts – but are these common drug prevention practices? If my parents had secretly installed cookies, traced my phone calls and looked at my SMS phone messages I would have lost major respect. Is “The Anti-Drug” campaign off-track? Or is monitoring adolescent communication the new best thing for preventing drug and alcohol use?

minute read

I was doing my homework on latest addiction trends, when I happened upon the official site of the White House National Drug Control Policy for parents at . Maybe you remember messages like the poster below meant to prevent addiction? Or maybe you caught my Top 10 series on anti-drug PSAs of the 1980’s?



PARENTS: The Best Anti-Drug Prevention(revised)

Well, the concept is the same as the 80’s. The message is the same. But the rules are different. Parents are the first line of defense in addiction prevention for adolescents and teens. But what shocked me about the current White House policy is that the government condones, nay encourages, parents to monitor kids’ communication. Log into their social networks. Track their cookies. Read their SMS chats. Talk about a plan made to backfire. Talk about out of touch.

Although tapping into teenage life via cellphones and computers may seem an easy and smart way to guide a kid down the straight-and-narrow, it’s simply not an effective long-term strategy for preventing substance and alcohol abuse. Teenagers require privacy in order to evolve a sense of self. In fact, Erik Erikson‘s theory of psychosocial development states that during adolescence, teens either resolve their questions of identity, or end up in role confusion. The issues of becoming a grown-up either end in devotion and fidelity OR fanaticism and repudiation.

Furthermore, adolescents who are close to their parents would openly dialogue about addiction issues…without need for espionage. This current White House plan operates on the assumption that children are objects of their parent’s domain rather than growing adults. I think it’s pretty basic. A top-down monologue is not a dialogue. When you give distrust, you get distrust. And if you take away adolescent privacy, you get a resentful teenager.

I must, however, admit exceptions to every rule. This practice is quite clever and useful in one-time instances for getting help to a kid who’s in real trouble and shows signs of addiction.

What do you think? should parents have access to kids’ accounts? What if a parent PAYS FOR a teen’s technology subscriptions? Should s/he have the right to view how that technology is being used? Where is the line between private and parental discretion required?

About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.


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  1. When we think of addiction, we usually think of alcohol or illegal drugs. But kids can become addicted to medications, cigarettes, even glue! And some substances are more addictive than others: Drugs like crack or heroin are so addictive that they might only be used once or twice before the user loses control.

  2. Val – Thanks for speaking from experience. Your comment has helped me understand the real value in perhaps temporarily breaking trust in order to help someone (anyone) who is in active addiction. The help is more important than the principle in this case. And although we can try to prevent teenage addiction by being close to our kids, they will still not tell us everything, will they?

  3. That’s the problem that need real attention. Parents need to be periodically check on the activities of teens, and always keep communicating with them and develop a relationship of trust & understanding.

  4. I am using Drug posters by the name of organization like WHO for promoting Anti Drug promotional campaign as a part of social activity.

  5. The fundamental problem with addiction, or rather with addicted person, is that his/her behavior is no longer rational or consciously controlled by that person. The addiction takes over the brain and the person becomes a slave to the bio-chemical mechanism. That person (your child) dedicates all his energy to essentially only three activities: 1. getting the narcotic and 2. hiding the facts of how, where and when the narcotic is received and used, 3. Keeping himself/herself in complete denial of the addiction and making sure his/her parents perceive him/her as normal IN ORDER TO KEEP THE ADDICTION GOING!!!

    An addicted child uses all contemporary communication tools for only one purpose: TO KEEP THE ADDICTION GOING.

    So, in this context, to continue treating your child as if he were a normal person that you knew and love so much, and respect as an individual and with whom you can reason and expect some kind of rational reaction and change in behavior – becomes absolutely not applicable and dangerously counterproductive!

    If parents really want to help their child and really want to bring a change in the situation they need to know the truth, THE FACTS of “Where, How, and When” in order:
    1. To get a proof for themselves (it is often hard for parents to believe) and to make undeniable case to his addicted child that he/she is AN ADDICT – which is the first step in any treatment
    2. To make drug acquisition and consumption as difficult as possible to force some kind of a crisis that can push their child to aknowlege the problem and to seek and, most importantly, TO ACCEPT help.

    Therefore violation of privacy of your VERY SICK child becomes unavoidable if a parent really wants to help him/her to get treatment from addiction. It is not something you can do without internal struggle, but it DOES HELP. And believe me, from personal experience, the regrets and reservations about violation of privacy of your sick child quickly fade away when you see him getting treatment, and getting better, getting back on his feet, coming back to you, to the family, to normal life, and you know that you played a major, or even decisive part in his recovery!

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