Parents: Do You Know About the Deep Web?

by editorial team 

 

Most parents worry about their kids and spend countless hours preparing for worst-case scenarios. We try to buy the best car seats, bundle our kids up in snow gear at the first snowflake, and research the best schools for our children. The hint of rain, the slightest chill, or a forgotten lunch will propel us to care for our children.

Care and caution are part of being a great parent. While concern and anxiety are sometimes overdone, it is never misguided when it pertains to the Dark Web. 

Some parents don’t know that the world wide web has a dark side, and it is as close as the electronic device in your living room.

What is the Dark Web?

The world wide web has three layers. The Association of Interest Research Specialists reports that the "surface" internet accounts for only four percent of the world wide web.

  • The surface web is the layer most people are familiar with. We navigate it daily for information on established sites like Amazon, Google, or news websites. Your activity on the surface web is traceable.
  • The next layer is the “deep web,” and this layer contains corporate databases, government records, and academic databases that are inaccessible by traditional search engines.
  • The third layer or “dark web” is the final layer that allows users to remain untraceable, which can be appealing to a naïve child or teenager. The appeal of anonymity for a curious teen is also the reason more nefarious individuals lurk on the dark web. The dark web does not rely on direct communication where everyone’s identity and the location is known but uses encryption tools to reroute every communication through a network of thousands of “volunteer tunnels” throughout the world. So everyone’s identity remains secret. The dark web appeals to kids because no evidence of visits to questionable sites is traceable.

How Do Kids Access the Dark Web?

Parents mistakenly think that their children are not savvy enough to access the dark web and that it takes specialized knowledge and skills. Accessing the dark internet is simple to do, and most children with simple computer skills or expertise to download an app can do so in minutes.

To gain access, kids download an onion-routing application, which is readily available and free on the surface web. These apps “wrap” the user’s IP address in layers of encryption like an onion by using the idea of onion routing.

Onion routing was developed by the Naval Research to help government operatives communicate without being traced and became available to the public in 2004.

A quick internet search by a school-aged child with perfunctory internet skills can locate and download the free application in minutes to a digital device. The Onion Router, or TOR, should not be on your home or child’s computer for any reason, and neither should be the following. 

  • I2P
  • Freenet
  • GNUnet
  • .onion IP addresses

Once a child or teen downloads the app, there are directories on the darknet to help them connect to find content. These particular directories are like search engines found on the surface web. Some favorite lists are Uncensored Hidden Wiki, Deep Web Links, and Hidden Wiki. Darknet routing programs can run off a USB flash drive instead of the actual computer, thereby leaving no browsing history.

Why is the Darknet Dangerous?

The anonymity of the darknet allows all kinds of illegal activities to occur without fear of exposure. With their identities hidden, kids can interact in any type of site available on the darknet without fear of exposure or repercussion. While not all activities on the dark web are illegal, most of them are, and cyberbullies, predators, and criminals do business there regularly.

Shysters and hackers are untrackable, and so if your child is tricked or deceived by someone on the dark web, they cannot be traced. There are warnings on the dark webpages, warning that an individual has no recourse should a transaction go awry. In addition to being anonymous, these sites are entirely uncensored, and the following illegal activities are readily available.

  • Drug dealing
  • Killers for hire
  • Guns and weapons
  • False ID’s and documents
  • Gambling
  • Terrorist organizations
  • Computer hacking tools
  • Illegal and dangerous activities

Not only are kids exposed to drug dealing, but they also can purchase or sell drugs and other commodities online. The darknet looks like the surface web’s shopping sites with photos, product descriptions, and even feedback. Items purchased with untraceable digital currency, such as Bitcoin, are untraceable. In 2016, a Florida teen used the dark internet to call in multiple bomb threats.

Final Thoughts on the Dark Web

Ignorance is not bliss when it pertains to the Dark Web.

Computers are integral to our daily lives, and they are in almost every home. The downside of the incredible convenience of technology is that there is a dark side, and that dark side is the dark web.

People can access the "dark web" through many different avenues. Usually people will find links to dark websites through word of mouth or forums. Parents can look at their children's browsing history to see if they are accessing unusual sites. However, if the children are savvy enough to be browsing the dark web they are probably savvy enough to use a browser that won't save their history. 
 
There is no need for a child or teen to be on the dark internet that hosts illegal and dangerous activities. Parents should be educated of the dangers of the darknet and help their children and teens understand them as well.
 
Since there may not be a way to block your child from accessing web-pages that are considered "dark web" sites, the best approach is to proactively talk to your child about it.

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