OWN TV Host Says Son Overdosed on Drugs Sold Via Snapchat
By Movieguide® Staff
OWN TV host Dr. Laura Berman announced her 16-year-old son’s death on Feb. 7 due to an apparent overdose from drugs obtained through the social media app Snapchat.
“My beautiful boy is gone. 16 years old. Sheltering at home. A drug dealer connected with him on Snapchat and gave him fentanyl laced Xanax or Percocet (toxicology will tell) and he overdosed in his room,” Berman wrote on Instagram.
Berman shared the tragic news via Instagram and warned parents of the dangers of how children use social media during COVID-19-related isolation.
“My heart is completely shattered and I am not sure how to keep breathing,” Berman said. “I post this now only so that not one more kid dies. We watched him so closely. Straight A student. Getting ready for college. Experimentation gone bad. He got the drugs delivered to the house.
“Please watch your kids and WATCH SNAPCHAT especially. That’s how they get them,” Berman added.
A Snapchat spokesperson offered condolences to the family and assured the app’s users of their commitment to preventing stories like Berman’s from ever taking place.
“Our deepest sympathies are with the family and friends of Samuel Berman Chapman and we are heartbroken by his passing,” a company spokesperson said. “We are committed to working together with law enforcement in this case and in all instances where Snapchat is used for illegal purposes. We have zero-tolerance for using Snapchat to buy or sell illegal drugs.”
Samuel’s father highlighted the need for big tech to take ownership and bring to justice the people using their platform taking advantage of people.
“I think that if social media wants to pretend to be responsible, this is a great place for them to change their behavior,” he told NBC News. “The big tech is not taking responsibility for helping the police find the dealer.”
Bill Bodner, the DEA Special Agent in Charge in Los Angeles, told Fox 11 that fentanyl-laced over-the-counter drugs is becoming a more common occurrence.
“It’s something made in a filthy clandestine lab in Mexico. There’s no quality control. The dosing is extremely inconsistent. It only takes 2.5 mg of fentanyl to kill you,” Bodner said of the counterfeit drugs sold and often distributed through social media apps like Snapchat.
As with anything relating to media, discernment is paramount to children and young adults’ safety and mental health, especially within the confines of a pandemic. While social media apps like Snapchat, Twitter, and Instagram are not inherently sinister, it is crucial to know how these platforms are being used by your children and abused by others.
In an interview with NBC News, Berman noted that the lockdown’s emotional effect on her son led to boredom and contributed to his tragic death.
As Movieguide® has previously reported, children are more likely to turn to their devices and media while socially isolated. Boredom mixed with the incessant attractiveness and addictive qualities of media endangers the mental, physical and spiritual health of children and adults alike.
Key 1: Understand the influence of the media on your children. In the wake of the Columbine High School massacre, CBS President Leslie Moonves put it quite bluntly: “Anyone who thinks the media has nothing to do with this is an idiot.” The major medical associations have concluded that there is absolutely no doubt that those who are heavy viewers of violence demonstrate increased acceptance of aggressive attitudes and aggressive behavior. Of course, media is only one part of the problem – a problem that could be summed up with the sage biblical injunction, “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character'” (1 Cor. 15:33). As the results of thousands of studies on youth violence prove, watching media violence causes violence among children. Bad company corrupts good character – whether that bad company is gangs, peer pressure or violent movies, video games and television programs.
Key 2: Ascertain your children’s susceptibility at each stage of cognitive development. Not only do children see the media differently at each stage of development, but also different children are susceptible to different stimuli. As the research of the National Institute of Mental Health revealed many years ago, some children want to copy media violence, some are susceptible to other media influences, some become afraid, and many become desensitized. Just as an alcoholic would be inordinately tempted by a beer commercial, so certain types of media may tempt or influence your child at his or her specific stage of development.
Key 3: Teach your children how the media communicates its message. Just as children spend the first 14 years of their lives learning grammar with respect to the written word, they also need to be taught the grammar of twenty-first-century mass media so that they can think critically about the messages being programmed for them.
Key 4: Help your children know the fundamentals of the Christian faith. Children need to be taught the fundamentals of the Christian faith so that they can apply their beliefs and moral values to the culture and to the mass media of entertainment. Of course, parents typically have an easier time than teachers with this Key because they can freely discuss their personal beliefs. Yet, even so, it is interesting to note that cultural and media literacy and values education are two of the fastest-growing areas in the academic community – a trend most likely due to the fact that educators are beginning to realize that something is amiss.
5. Key 5: Help your children learn how to ask the right questions. When children know the right questions to ask, they can arrive at the right answers to the problems presented by the mass media of entertainment. For instance, if the hero in the movie your child is watching wins by murdering and mutilating his victims, will your children be able to question this hero’s behavior? No matter how likable that character may be.