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  • Writer's pictureJunior Oliveira

CHILDREN & THE DARK WEB? How can you tell if your child is accessing it

Updated: Mar 31, 2023

If you’ve ever heard of the Dark Web, you’ll probably know that this term is related to cybercrime or/and “black cash transaction” and unfortunately, I have to say that this kind of online law-breaking is after more than just money. Thus, ever since the Dark Web became a recurrent term when people bring up discussions about the negative aspects of the Internet, there have been plenty of different doubts, myths and rumours regarding this topic. And for some parents, this subject has become more critical and a greater concern, considering that child abuse accounts for a significant portion of Dark Web criminal reports.

Also, it is relevant to say that it is surrounded by disturbing contents. To exemplify this, I would like to mention two sad facts; firstly, last year, a 16-year old British girl felt like she had "no hope" after receiving disappointing mock test results at school. After an investigation, her mother discovered that a dark web suicide chatroom encouraged the girl to kill herself. And the second one is a sad recent case, in which a paedophile filmed himself raping a child and then shared the footage with other predators on the Dark Web. I am sorry to mention these terrible examples, but it is crucial to explicitly describe the disgusting core content that a user can find on the Dark Web.

What is the Dark Web, and is it a threat?

Whether for mere curiosity or even for not-so-good reasons, the fact is that many people would like to know how the Dark Web works. I am sure that a significant part of Internet users might think that the world wide web stops at the last page of Google search results, but actually, the web is an enormous universe or a vast ocean. Like an iceberg, a huge part of it lies undetected and invisible under the surface (have a look at the famous Dark Web & Iceberg analogy). In this context, everything that you access through your regular Internet browsers (such as Google applications, blogs, web pages, etc), referred to as the ‘surface’ Internet, can be easily accessed using any personal computers and is relatively harmless if used correctly.

In contrast, the Dark Web has been used to buy and sell illegal online content, drugs and weapons and other illicit products, besides being a tool to promote human traffic and sexual exploitation from seemingly untraceable sites. It is essential to say that it contains some of the most depraved and undesirable persons of all those who deal in the sickest and most perverse types of pornography, which is illegal in almost every part of the world. To access the Dark Web, people have to install an application called Tor (or similar).

Tor???? What is Tor?

The Organization Internet Matters explains that the Dark Web is part of the internet that is only accessible through special software. As I have said, the most commonly used software is called TOR (The Onion Router). What is Tor? Tor was originally created by US military researchers to allow an exchange of information completely anonymously. They later released this into the public domain – creating white noise and hiding messages for security purposes.

If you still doubt that this place is not dangerous, or even if everything that you just read sounds like a creative urban legend, I would like to cite some explanations that I took from the Internet Matters Webpage; also have a look at the instructions that they provide on their page in order to help parents to protect their children in regarding the risks related to the Dark Web.

What are the risks of the Dark Web to children?

Lack of regulated content and users. Due to the anonymity of the dark web, it is harder for law enforcement to investigate cases of abuse.

Explicit content: Children can access sites with indecent images, sites selling drugs and or weapons – this is also the case for the ‘open web'

Online grooming: Sex offenders are more likely to approach children in the ‘open web’ than the ‘dark web’ - Sex offenders tend to use the dark web to meet online and discuss their strategy to take advantage of children.

How to protect my child from using the dark web

1- Review privacy filters across all devices and apps, see our how-to guides to learn how to set these up;

2- Virtual Private Network (VPN) can be used to provide an additional layer of security to your child’s online activity

3- If your child comes across something that is upsetting or worrying, please report this to the CEOP

4- Build their critical thinking – to make sure they know how to spot things that may not be what they seem and make smarter choices online. Also, make them aware that those who use the dark web may have complex reasons to stay anonymous which can cause them harm.

My Golden Tip: I have heard and read a lot about parental control, techniques, software, apps, and dozens of methods that companies are launching to protect children online, but to be really honest, the most effective method to keep our children safe is an open conversation, talking to your child openly is the best way to help keep them safe online. Talk about what might be appropriate for children of different ages, try to investigate what sites or apps they like, then you can create a list, and have a look at these things together. And bear in mind that in a world where children are "growing up digital," it's important to help them learn healthy concepts of digital use. Thus, we as parents play an important role in teaching these concepts. Do not be afraid to talk about privacy, sexting, or online predators, etc. Of course, this depends on the age group of each child, and if do not have any idea how to start this conversation, have a look at the tip “scripts” and tip list created by the NSPC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children).

My final consideration: If you asked me "Should I visit the Dark Web?" In my point of view, the short and straightforward answer is that “there's no reason to”. And if you face any problem don't be afraid to look for help; for instance, if you are in the UK please contact a CEOP Child Protection Advisors, or if you are in another country, look for an Internet Security Regulator.

Parents must be updated on all the topics related to how technology impacts children's development click here to see other posts. I hope you found this post useful and informative. I really need your support, as this a self-funding project, so I kindly ask you (if you can or if you wish) to please share this post and subscribe to our mailing list! Follow us on Facebook or on Twitter :>)

References: To see the sources of this article, please click in each link within the text.


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