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Why you shouldn't share the social post of children on drugs
A few learners in Pretoria became seriously ill after smoking a herbal drug. Social media was abuzz – but don't fall into the trap of sharing these posts.
Marijuana consumption may be decriminalised for adults, and some herbal highs may even be legal - for adults. But no minors under 18 are allowed to use dagga or herbal drugs. And adults would be wise to be cautious of herbal highs, which can contain highly toxic substances. (iStock)
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Disturbing footage of children being treated for severe drug-related symptoms have surfaced on Facebook. It really makes for highly uncomfortable watching, with kids – still in school uniform – writhing pitifully on the ground or walking around dazed and hallucinating. 

News24 reported on this yesterday: Herbal blend, puff, blazing: Pretoria school children hospitalised after smoking unknown drug

A photo depicts a small heap of herbal leaves, which could by mistaken for marijuana, I suppose, if you're naive. It comes neatly packaged in a foil pouch, branded with a sticker showing a cartoon face and the brand name "Crazy Coconut".

Concerned people have been sharing these photos and videos. Some repeat the (false) hearsay stories that "5 children have died". Not true, fortunately there haven't been fatalities. Some comment on how parents must be vigilant, how we must educate our children that even seemingly innocuous herbal stuff can land them in big trouble. 

Yes, let's all help our kids understand the dangers of experimenting with drugs.

Read: Hidden dangers of a herbal high

But as much as we want to spread the message, we need to be extra vigilant to NEVER spread photos or videos where minors – children under 18 – can clearly be identified. The parents must give consent, and if he or she is old enough to be able to give consent, the parents may not distribute or give consent for someone else to distribute the footage unless the child has agreed to it.

I can guarantee you that these kids in the video, tripping on as-yet-unknown drugs and being treated by paramedics, did not give consent for these to be distributed. And neither would their parents have given consent.

Also read: Help! I've been cyber-bullied

Sharing the footage is problematic on many levels:

  • Imagine it's you lying there. It's clearly a traumatic experience, you're at your most vulnerable. Do you want others to distribute this on social media for the world to see? 
  • Drugs are illegal, and even legal drugs aren't allowed to be consumed by minors. So now someone is distributing footage of you who seemingly did something possibly illegal.
  • What about victimisation and bullying after the event? Will others at school not make fun of you?
  • Think about university applications and future job interviews: this photo or video may haunt you in your career.
  • And then you're a parent, and these photos stick around for your kids to see.
  • Of course, it's illegal to distribute images of minors without their or their parents' consent. That child or parent can technically sue you, and everyone else who shared this social post, whether on a public domain like Facebook, or even via Whatsapp.

This, of course, also applies to videos of bullying incidents that go viral. Also read Bullying videos: what the SA law says

3 things to do when you want to spread videos concerning minors:

This is really only advisable it you want to spread awareness.

1. Ensure you have the necessary digital editing tools to blur out the children's faces and hair, any school logos or other identifiable markers (such as scars).

2. Never mention the school or any person's names.

3. Ensure that your message can in no way be understood as malicious and/or an attack on someone's character.

By the way, you know those cute videos of the school concert? Same rule applies here. Take the videos if you must, but keep them for your family to see or zoom in only on your child. 

Remember...

There are certain areas of defamation that are more hurtful than others, that have possible longer-term repercussions: being accused of doing something illegal like taking drugs, being called a liar, and being outed for your sexual orientation or preference. Just never go there – everyone has the right to privacy.

We were all young. We were all curious and adventurous, even if we didn't experiment with drugs. Give these kids a break.

Also read:

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