Talking to kids about their social media use in wake of Langley teen's overdose death

A video that emerged online late last week showing Langley teen Carson Crimeni,14, dying of an apparent overdose is raising concerns about the ways in which social media is desensitizing young people to extreme content.

Merlyn Horton, the CEO of SafeOnline Education, says it's important parents stay on top of their child's social media use by incorporating online management techniques and strategies into their daily lives and educating their children.

"People need to be aware of the issue  in order to change," she said.

Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

Horton, says the online conversation has shifted over the years. In the early 2000s, adults were advising kids to  steer clear of predators on the internet. Now, she says, it's important to talk to kids and be aware about how they're conducting themselves online.

To do that, Horton suggests turning on monitoring software on phones and having weekly conversations with kids about how much time they're spending it online and where they're spending it. 

She says it's important to ask direct questions about over consumption: "How much time did you spend on YouTube this week?" And to open the conversation with questions like: "Did you see anything that scared you?"

She says parents can enforce the amount of time their kids spend online.

"That could mean putting a timer on the family router, so the whole network goes down for everybody at 9 p.m.," she said.

Ultimately, she says how parents use social media has the biggest impact on their children's use.

"What you're doing with your device, your child is going to do. If parents are overconsuming, your child will too," she said.

There should be conscious times without devices, according to Horton: riding in the car, family vacations and meal times can be  phone-free zones.

Trolling culture

The video of Crimeni's final hours posted online show people laughing in the background. His family believes Crimeni  was given drugs and, later, bystanders filmed his overdose without calling for help.

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A photo posted on social media even included the caption: "Carson almost died LOL."

The teen's grandfather, Darrel Crimeni, said, although he hopes people can learn an important lesson about intervening when someone is in distress, he cannot make sense of the traumatic event.

 "I don't even know how a normal human being can even do something like that ... they killed him for entertainment," he said.

Across the board, Horton is noticing kids as young as third graders putting everything out there: the good, the bad and the ugly.

"[They] get joy out of the distress of others," she said.

Vancouver caller Stephen Migicovsky told Belle Puri, the guest host of CBC's B.C. Today, it's time to re-evaluate how we respond to others in real life versus online.

"If there's an emergency ... you have to save the person's life," he said.

Meaningful consumption 

Horton believes that being a bystander and recording a traumatic event is a symptom of not being present. "

"'I share, therefore I am,' is one of the comments I've heard before," she said.

Horton believes kids should be more mindful of their time online and the content they're consuming.

"We need to make sure that [social media] is contributing meaningfully to our lives," she said. "We're documenting our lives rather than living them."