Getting caught up in the darknet

Melissa Martin, Ph.D.

Whenever a device (Internet) is developed for the good — there are those who will counterfeit it for bad. World Wide Web, surface web, deep web, dark web and darknet (or dark net) are terms referring to Internet functions. Clear as mud to me, a person from the generation that grew up without computer technology and without the Internet.

Surface web. The portion of the World Wide Web that is searchable with standard search engines and accessible to the general public.

Dark web. A small piece of the deep web, a part of the Web not indexed by search engines. There are both benefits and drawbacks to using the dark web. Individuals in oppressive countries can be anonymous as they search for information or reveal human rights violations. The downside is illegal activities.

Darknet. Epitomizes the hidden dangers of the Internet. Any individual (including adolescents) with know-how can access off-limits websites about fake IDs, drugs, porn, weapons, terrorists’ recruiters; sites that promote anorexia, suicide and other hazards; and meet sexual predators in disguise. And users remain anonymous. If there’s no trace, there’s no browsing history for parents to eyeball. Anyone can order and receive illicit drugs in the mail camouflaged in pretty packaging. Does your teen have access to a credit card or checking account? Could your teen be renting a post office box without your knowledge?

Think about the Internet like an onion with several layers. The outer onion skin is about search engines and common areas; shopping and buying products; conversations on social media sites; and reading research studies, breaking news; checking weather, and so forth.

The deeper you go, the more things you find that are private with keep-out signs and locks. Darknet is a piece of the dark web, referred to as the anonymous Internet.

The next onion layer is comprised of confidential and private data for government agencies, personal records, medical information and other encrypted information for authorized users. This is where sensitive information is filed and stored.

Go deeper and find the dark web which was developed for the military. No further explanation needed.

Enter the darknet zone. You cannot surf here with standard browsers, and tech savvy teens know this. The darknet uses other networks, for example TOR, and the Onion Router is well-liked by sneaky kids. Other popular names include 12P-Invisible Internet Project, Freenet, Virtual Private Network and the Uncensored Hidden Wiki.

“Undeniably, the darknet is exploding in popularity among criminals. Cybercrime is big business, and is projected to grow to $600 billion this year, outpacing any other form of crime, including the drug trade, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime,” according to a 2016 article by CNBC.

Educate yourself about the darknet, and then begin to have conversations with your kids — not just one discussion, but ongoing talks. Honest communication about your concerns is vital.

“But, what if my teens become even sneakier after I talk and tell?” That’s a possibility, but it doesn’t change the fact that you need to be informed, and inform your children about the dangers of the darknet. Tell your teens, “It’s my job to keep you as safe as I can at home, at school, in the community and on the Internet.” There’s a difference between being a snoopy parent and a concerned parent. Teens need degrees of privacy in some areas, but parents should not compromise on safety issues.

For more information about the darknet, go to a search engine. Or seek out someone with more knowledge.

Melissa Martin, Ph.D.

Melissa Martin, Ph.D., is an author, self-syndicated columnist, educator and therapist. She resides in Scioto County, Ohio. Contact her at

Melissa Martin, Ph.D., is an author, self-syndicated columnist, educator and therapist. She resides in Scioto County, Ohio. Contact her at