Internet Safety for Teens and the Dark Web

Internet safety for teens is a very important topic today. The dark web threatens kids, especially, who are new to the vast unknown of the world wide web. Also known as the dark side of the web, the dark web is the criminal underbelly of the Internet.

Here, drug dealers, computer hackers, terrorists, and pedophiles lurk anonymously. Thus, sites on the dark web are accessed anonymously via renegade browsers that hide identities.

As a result, the dark web represents a threat to teen health and safety. The risks include hacking, identity theft, credit card fraud, and other financial debacles.

The Dangers of the Dark Side of the Web 

The following facts and statistics reveal some of the dangers of the dark web. Thus, they reveal how the dark web undermines Internet safety for teens.

  • A recent study shows that 80 percent of dark web visits are related to pedophilia.
  • When the US Justice Department took down the illegal marketplace AlphaBay in 2017, there were more than 250,000 listings for illegal drugs and toxins.
  • The most common DarkNet marketplace listings are illegal firearms (42 percent).
  • The dark web is a haven for terrorist groups and extremist elements.

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A Basic Understanding of Dark Web Terminology

However, most people do not know that the dark web even exists. In truth, the surface web we access on search engines like Google comprises only about 5 percent of the web. The rest lies below the surface.

By knowing the terminology, parents will also know the red flags to look for when teenagers start talking about the dark web.

Surface Web: What most people know as the Internet, the surface web or the “clear web” implies public websites. We can easily find and view these sites because search engines index them.

Deep Web: According to deep web statistics, about 90 percent of the content on the Internet exists in an area not indexed by search engines. Therefore, deep web content cannot be accessed without permission. Examples of deep web content are databases of medical records, legal documents, proprietary corporate information, and government data.

Dark Web: The deepest level of the web, this is an encrypted computer network. Hence, it is used for illegal peer-to-peer file sharing of pornography and pirated content. The dark web provides access to sites on the dark web that are known as .onion sites. Thus, the main dark web browser TOR is also known as the Onion Router. TOR allows access to .onion domains anonymously. Encrypted content on these .onion sites tries to be 100 percent anonymous, hiding the identity of the users and the purveyors.

The Shadowy Lure of Dark Web Marketplaces 

Since teens look to rebel, the dark web is a powerful lure. However, most teens do not understand the dangers of the dark web.

The lure of dark web marketplaces makes Internet safety for kids a priority. The products and services available on these illegal marketplaces include the following:

  • Illegal drugs, from synthetic fentanyl to Ecstasy
  • Child sexual exploitation and illegal pornography
  • Extremely violent footage and snuff films
  • Terrorist indoctrination tools and propaganda
  • Guns and weapons, including biological agents like viruses
  • Criminal how-to guides and computer hacking tutorials
  • Stolen goods, counterfeit merchandise, fake credit cards
  • Hitmen and criminals for hire.

Furthermore, payment for these goods and services is almost exclusively through virtual currencies like Bitcoin, which are designed to be anonymous. Unlike credit cards, virtual currencies allow for hidden transactions. Thus, buyers and sellers cannot be tracked.

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How to Provide Internet Safety for Teens

Despite efforts by the FBI, Interpol, and the Justice Department to shut it down, the dark web continues to thrive.

Thus, here are questions to ask about a teen possibly being on the dark web:

  • Has the teen become more secretive about their computer usage?
  • Are they fatigued because they are not sleeping, yet also anxious and jumpy?
  • Is the teen attempting to cover online activity by clearing Internet history, changing passwords, and installing new software and browsers?
  • Have you noticed cash missing from a bank account or strange credit card charges?
  • Is the teen receiving unmarked packages from strange people and places?

Such questions might motivate parents to take steps to investigate further. Moreover, parents can raise their kids’ awareness about the dark web. Therefore, they promote Internet safety for teens. Teenagers need to understand the risks.

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Dark Web Safety Tips for Parents

Internet safety tips for parents can help teens avoid dark web dangers. Parents might also need to create rules for Internet safety to protect teens.

Here are several tips for parents to promote Internet safety for teens:

  1. Encourage honesty by communicating with a teenager. Ask them what they know about the dark web. Indeed, teens on the dark web will often brag about it.
  2. Hone critical thinking skills by talking about the dangers of the dark web. Let a teen know the extreme consequences. And make sure they understand the risks.
  3. Check all the browsers on a teen’s computer and mobile devices. If you find any unknowns or suspicious browsers, ask about them. Then, delete them. It’s possible to detect the installation of a TOR browser .
  4. Go through a teen’s Internet browsing history and look for unusually long URLs. TOR sites have lengthy web addresses. Search for any unknown sites on Google. Although you can’t access .onion sites, you can find information about them.
  5. If a teen seems intrigued by the dark web, redirect that curiosity into coding and technological education. Encourage teens to use knowledge positively by relating the histories of Internet entrepreneurs, like Mark Zuckerberg and the founders of Google.

To summarize, parents, caregivers, professionals, and teachers need to take appropriate steps to protect curious teenagers from the dangers of the dark web. Therefore, they can support Internet safety for teens. If you or someone you love is struggling with internet addiction, tech-related concerns, or any mental health issues, we’re here to help.