Columns and Editorials

Ask Dr. Missy, Child Counselor & Feelings Helper

Melissa Martin

Concerned about my teens and the dark net

Dr. Missy: What is all the hype about teenagers hiding things in the dark on the Internet from parents? I check my daughter’s and my son’s computer around every 2 weeks, but I’m not that into technology like kids today. They know I do this for their safety. (I’m a little nosey, too.)

-Pondering Parent

Dear Pondering Parent:

I learned about the darknet from my teenage clients. Whenever a device (Internet) is developed for the good—there are those who will counterfeit it for bad. Go to a search engine and type in the word “darknet.” I’ll share what I know with you, but I’m from the generation that grew up without computers and without the World Wide Web.

Darknet epitomizes the hidden dangers of the Internet. Any youth 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 access sexual predators in disguise.

And users remain anonymous. If there’s no trace, then 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 his/her own checking account? Is your teen 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. Some refer to the Internet parts as surface web, deep web, and dark web. 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.

Then there’s the darknet. 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: 12P-Invisible Internet Projet, Freenet, Virtual Private Network, and the Uncensored Hidden Wiki.

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 helicopter—snooper parent and a concerned parent. Check your parental motives. Teens need degrees of privacy in some areas, but parents do not compromise on safety issues.

Melissa Martin, Ph.D. is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, Registered Play Therapist, and Behavioral Health Consultant. Email your questions to the Scioto County Candor at info@thesciotocountycandor.com and put “Dr. Missy” in the subject line.

Ask Dr. Missy is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of your physician, mental health professional, or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.