Friday, June 20, 2014

Secrets of the Dark Web: Educating Teens

Friday, June 20, 2014


 In the 1980's,  the rise of instantaneous communication was born via the internet.  Personally, I love the internet!  l love to see pictures of my friends on face book, browse pinterest, research information, and even buy music for my I-Pod.  The internet has revolutionized our culture and economic commerce in the last 25 years.  Today, I can get on the internet and find a new pair of shoes for the upcoming ASCA Conference.  When I type in the term shoes, in whichever browser I decide to use, countless sites of shoes appear.  What is amazing is that Google only searches a small percentage of what is actually on the web. In essence, it is like casting your net in the ocean and only catching the marine life near the surface.  This is called the "internet within the internet".

The Internet Within the Internet

Beyond our friends Google, Yahoo, Webcraweler, and Bing,  is a host of browsers that can take you into the next layer of the internet known as the "Deep Web."  In the Deep Web, loads of accessible information exists that traditional websites cannot bring to the surface, but can be accessed by anyone.  For instance, if I wanted to get to the Deep Web, I could download a Deep Web  browser and send one query instead of searching multiple search engines. This is great for researchers who need to find articles or information and cannot find them on the surface web broswers like Goolge. There are a lot of positives to using the deep web:

1.  It's Free!
2.  Easy to access
3.  Huge databases can be searched with just one query.
4.  Greater results of searches can be accessed.






 Now, before you get all excited about all the uncapped information out there, you must realize for every well meaning idea there is often a draw back.  If you decide to go to the deep web and cast your net, you may see things that are disturbing.  A part of the deep web is the dark underside of the web called, um, well the dark web.

The Dark Web

The Dark Web or Dot Onion is a place on the internet that may no longer be available (i.e. the address has become old) or "gone dark"(a place where illegal activity is happening).  If a student decided to download one of the Deep Web browsers (i.e. Tor), he or she could become totally anonymous on the internet.  Why?  The reason is that Tor connects with millions of computers confusing his or her location.  Let's say someone wanted to use Tor to go to a website that sells drugs; he or she can do it without any detection.  Also, if a adult wanted to buy a child as a sex slave he could access websites through Tor.  The Dark Web gives adults and teens access to buy guns, drugs, prostitutes, pornography, contract killers, stolen credit card numbers, stolen pay pal accounts, and stolen gold through a currency called bitcoins (1 bitcoin is $9 US dollars). Bitcoin is an anonymous account that teens use to purchase video games and now drugs on the Dark Web. Bitcoin accounts are actually funded by parents thinking that it is used for legal means.

The Dark Web


In the article, Accessing the Deep Web, the author gives web surfers the keys of how to find disturbing information and images, illegal activity, and even online storage for their illegal images.  One site called Gram, prides itself on being the "dark" Google allowing people to sell illegal ads, rate illegal websites, and creating other illegal Google-like applications.  Just imagine websites where hit men advertise for their services and child porn ads are as common as a Walmart ad!

What Does This Mean for Students?

As tech savvy as our students are today,  it will not be hard for them to find this underworld.  How can they find this secret portal?  Just download the Tor browser, go to popular sites (i.e. Gram), buy your merchandise in bitcoins, and have the merchandise sent to your PO box or home address.   Today, the ease of getting access to drugs, guns, and other illegal items is just one click away.  This is really a terrifying fact for me as a parent and school counselor!!  Until recently, the dark web was well hidden.  However our guileless youth are advertising their illegal deals on social media which has brought attention to this hidden world.

What Can School Counselors Do?

At this point, there is not a Dark Web tool kit for school counselors; however, we can educate our staff, parents, and students about this underground world.

Some tips:

1.  Bring in experts to talk about the dark web for your staff and parents.
2.  Send home information about how parents can protect their children online.
3.  Write to your representative about protections for children against dark web predators.
4.  Use peers to  educate peers regarding the dangers of the dark web and give presentations to younger students.
5. Organize "A Beware of the Dark" campaign for your school.  This campaign can emphasize the dangers of giving out personal information on the web; raise awareness about the anonymity of the Dark Web; give tips on how to protect oneself from cyber-stalkers, identity theft, and child traffickers; and raise awareness of police surveillance of the Dark Web and the possibility of arrest when visiting Dark Web websites (even if it is by accident).

I hope this post was informational and can be useful in your practice.  Look for my upcoming "Beware of the Dark" kit on Teachers Pay Teachers.   I do not know about you, but my eyes have been opened to a world I never knew existed!

Additional Resources:

Deep Web v. Dark Web: Defending Children
Going Dark, the Internet Behind the Internet
Diving Into the Deep Web: What Is it and Who Can Access It?
Netsmartz Resources
Educator's Online Guide to Internet Safety
Safe Surfing Kids Lesson Plans
Halt Online Abuse