Yesterday I attended an internet safety course run by two policemen providing information about the Dark Web. This accounts for the 80% of the internet that is uncategorised and which most of us are probably only vaguely aware of, if at all. Originally it was set up by the US intelligence services for covert operations, but you will not be surprised to learn that it is now being used for slightly more nefarious projects.

Some of the things that I learned on this course are absolutely horrendous and certainly do not warrant repetition here, but there is much that is well worth passing on.

Anyone working in a public domain such as an internet café should set up a virtual private network to protect themselves from others accessing their work. With 20,000 apps being added every day, it is impossible for anyone to keep control of them and this is clearly a concern when we think of what our children may be accessing. You may think you have a handle on this, but there is a solution to every problem that comes up for someone and the policemen gave as an example the app that enables you to track your children’s whereabouts. It is now possible to change this so that you could put yourself anywhere in the world, moving between countries at will, so things may not quite be as they appear on your app.

A “nanny” app may be helpful and is certainly worth looking into as soon as your child gets a mobile phone. As parents we deal with digital information very differently to our children and this makes it very difficult to monitor.

One of the speakers also told of an experiment that he conducted at home with a friend, where they put his phone between the two of them and had a discussion about Koi Karp – something that neither of them had any interest in at all. Within a couple of hours, his phone was receiving messages advertising and giving information about Koi Karp!

  • The policemen made the following recommendations:
  • With regard to taking photos on your phone and sending them to others: if you wouldn’t feel comfortable holding the photo above your head in the middle of a shopping centre, do not send it to anyone else. Once you have sent a photo through your phone it will be out there for ever.
  • Be wary of putting the traditional “back to school” photo on your Facebook page, particularly if you’re providing names, as well as the school the children are going to.
  • Make sure that you are aware of your children’s online activity
  • Don’t allow your children to take their phones upstairs, or have a computer in their bedroom
  • Forget the fact that the games they are playing online are digital, put them in the physical world. Would you be happy for your child to go down to the park and play a game with a group of people that you do not know at all, some of whom may be 40 years old?
  • Essentially, there are three scales on the internet: the Surface Web which has been indexed by search engines such as Google, the Deep Web that cannot be indexed by search engines – to access sites here you need to use your passwords – and the Dark Web which really should be a ‘no go’ area.

The internet offers education and information in a way that has never been so accessible, but we all have to be aware of the darker side of modern technology and do everything that we can as parents to ensure that we can protect our children as much as we can. We will continue to provide parent sessions, both independently, and linking with the College where appropriate, in order to give you as much information as we can; please do not hesitate to contact Andy Emmerson, our IT technician should you require further information.

Jerry Gear 20.ix.19