June 27, 2024

The Dark Web and Our Children: An Introduction

The dark web poses significant threats to children by exposing them to a secret digital world. Although the internet offers a wealth of educational resources and entertainment, it also harbors anonymous crime and illegal activities. US government employees originally used the dark web, accessed via a TOR browser, for confidential information exchange. Unlike the standard internet, search engines do not index dark web websites, and regular web browsers cannot access them. This differentiates it from the deep web, which, although hidden from public view, can still be accessed to a limited extent by search engines.

Infographic relaying statistics on the different layers of the internet (surface web, deep web, dark web)


Why Would a Child Access the Dark Web?

As children grow, they naturally seek more independence. This challenges parents to maintain oversight without encroaching on their privacy. Curiosity can lead them to explore the hidden corners of the web, where illegal activities, disturbing content, and harmful ideologies thrive. The allure of it often lies in its forbidden nature, which can be particularly enticing to children and teens as they navigate their identity and independence. It’s important to note that while using a TOR browser is not illegal, it can serve as a gateway to hazardous content and activities.

Signs Your Child Might Be Using the Dark Web

Most children don’t typically need to use the TOR browser, but if you find one on their computer, it’s crucial to start a conversation. Since TOR traffic cannot be tracked, you can’t be sure your child isn’t being abused or groomed at a glance. Watch for signs such as secretive behavior regarding their life online, sudden outbursts of anger, or becoming overly emotional when away from their device. These behaviors may indicate distress related to their online activity.

How is the Dark Web Policed?

Due to its anonymous nature, the dark web is incredibly hard to moderate. However, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command (CEOP) in the UK, along with the NSA and FBI in the US, use various methods to track illegal activities. If you discover your child has accessed the dark web, remain calm and gather context. Understand their reasons for accessing the platform and have an open and honest conversation about the risks. Help them think critically about online content and recognize warning signs of malicious intent. Encourage them to share information safely and build their critical thinking skills to make smarter choices online.

How to Address the Issue

As with most sensitive matters, approach this conversation from an educational standpoint. A harsh confrontation could push your child away and cause more distress. Educate them on the risks and legal implications of accessing online content. Discuss the dangers of sharing their images online. Predators often use the surface web to approach children but may quickly move them to a secure site on the dark web to exploit them. According to Internet Safe Education, four out of five websites on the dark web are pedophilic in nature. Children browsing the dark web are also at risk of accessing extremist sites, Child Sex Abuse Material, or falling victim to scams.



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Josh Gillispie