back to article Cutting kids off from the dark web – the solution can only ever be social

The murder of 16-year-old schoolgirl Brianna Ghey has kickstarted a debate around limiting children's access to the dark web in the UK, with experts highlighting the difficulty in achieving this. Ciaran Martin, the National Cyber Security Centre's first CEO and current Oxford University professor, weighed into the discussion …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Chilling Effects

    If they need to establish your age to allow you to use Social Media, then they will need to establish your identiity.

    If they establish your identiity, then if you express opinions out of line with your [future] employer or your [future] government, then you may face retribution or adverse action for holding or expressing those opinions.

    1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

      Re: Chilling Effects

      The idea being suggested is that there will be special phones for young people, because there is no possibility at all they they will get their hands on the adult versions, the market in second hand stuff being as tightly regulated as it is. No, me neither.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Chilling Effects

        Of course, there are already phones intended specifically for children out there. I wouldn't recommend you buy one. The ones I've seen are cheap Android devices that have been locked down with some unverified tracking and blocking software, never get updates, and have terrible specs. They're locked down so installing applications is either difficult or impossible (without bypassing their protection which isn't always hard if you know how Android images are built). Maybe one reason they're all sold by companies nobody's ever heard of is that nobody actually buys them.

        It is up to parents to decide whether they'll buy something of the kind, not the rest of us to either make them better or add software to everything else so they can be switched into that locked mode. If parents don't take action, then I have no reason to do it for them.

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Chilling Effects

          "The ones I've seen are cheap Android devices that have been locked down with some unverified tracking and blocking software, never get updates, and have terrible specs."

          You list those as if they are bad. Many parents want for their kids to be able to call them at any time from any where. Fewer parents want the devices to be entertainment appliances that the kids stare at all day long and go into fits when the battery won't hold at least 3 hours of a charge anymore.

          They don't need "specs", updates or be able to access the internet. They just need to be a phone (and an unannounced tracking device).

          1. doublelayer Silver badge

            Re: Chilling Effects

            A flip phone (yes, they still exist, they still work, they're pretty cheap) can also be used to just call and send messages. I don't see many parents equipping their children with those nowadays. Maybe they actually don't mind that they can run other applications.

            As for updates, they bring security fixes. If you're intent on tracking your children now that the technology can manage it, you might value not having, for example, one of the many devices covered here where "you can track your kids" turns into "anyone can track your kids and listen to them at all hours". So by all means be one of the people who uses an insecure system to creepily track your children, after all there must be someone or even the weird brands wouldn't exist, but that's your choice to make for you, not for anyone else.

        2. CountCadaver Silver badge

          Re: Chilling Effects

          Qustudio is an app that can be installed to not only monitor what your kid has been looking at, who they have been talking to /.who has been messaging them but also where they have been.

          It is strongly made clear that this should be implemented with the child's knowledge and includes an SOS function that will dial their parent/guardian as well as highlighting their location.

          It can block particular apps or provide access only to apps

          suitable for that age bracket.

          I looked it over for a relative and I was quite impressed with it tbh.

      2. david 12 Silver badge

        Re: Chilling Effects

        because there is no possibility at all they they will get their hands on the adult versions

        Just like we should have no laws about murder, because some people commit murder anyway.

        Straw man invented by you: nobody else has suggested that reason or justification for school attendance rules, phone restrictions, rent laws, or laws against murder.

        1. ICL1900-G3

          Re: Chilling Effects

          However, more effort is likely to be made to catch a murderer than to catch someone who has sold a phone to someone underage. Restricting phones to adults is not realistically enforceable, outlawing murder stands more of a chance.

          1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

            Re: Chilling Effects

            My thought was a flag in the SIM that Android/iOS will pass on to apps. Asking for a restricted SIM to be replaced with an adult one, should demand stringent checks. Buying another SIM will mean changing the phone number. And constantly flipping between SIMs (in a single SIM phone) is likely to break the phone fairly quickly.

            So, as parent, you just have to make sure your child has a single SIM phone with a restricted SIM. It's the job of the regulators to make sure Facebook et al honour the SIM.

          2. Falmari Silver badge

            Re: Chilling Effects

            @ICL1900-G3 "However, more effort is likely to be made to catch a murderer than to catch someone who has sold a phone to someone underage. Restricting phones to adults is not realistically enforceable, outlawing murder stands more of a chance."

            That same argument can be applied to other age restricted items such as alcohol, tobacco or porn magazines (pre internet). Restricting phones to adults is just as enforceable as restricting alcohol to adults.

            1. doublelayer Silver badge

              Re: Chilling Effects

              During my childhood, many people my age had access to alcohol. This increased exponentially with age (I don't know anyone who had a lot of access at 12, for example). I did not consume it, but I know some did, and there was likely some harm as a result. So yes, it does fit the pattern in that there's some effort to prevent it but it is not that successful and it is not treated the same way as murder or any other violent crime. So if the law was written to do it, expect a lot of leakage. In fact, expect even more access than with alcohol because there's an important factor. When an adult uses some alcohol, it's gone and children can't have it. When a parent uses a phone and replaces it, they may have an old phone that they plan to give to the child. That's going to introduce many adult phones to children.

              This is all assuming that you want that. I do not. I don't want there to be a law requiring locked-down devices to exist, nor one that restricts what technology children can have access to. If that happened, something as simple as a Raspberry Pi would probably have to be denied to children since it is capable of accessing Tor, and neither denying it to children nor restricting it are acceptable options in my mind. So even if you can find a way to make this work, I will still oppose it.

              1. Falmari Silver badge

                Re: Chilling Effects

                I am not advocating age restriction for phones just pointing out that the argument "Restricting phones to adults is not realistically enforceable" applies to other age age restrictions like alcohol. It would reduce access but not eliminate it.

                "When an adult uses some alcohol, it's gone and children can't have it. When a parent uses a phone and replaces it, they may have an old phone that they plan to give to the child. That's going to introduce many adult phones to children."

                If phones were age restricted parents would not be handing adult phones down to their children. Again not advocating age restriction for phones.

                1. doublelayer Silver badge

                  Re: Chilling Effects

                  "If phones were age restricted parents would not be handing adult phones down to their children."

                  Yes, they would. They would not be supposed to, but they would still do it because their old phone is free, a child phone is not, and a lot of parents today don't see any reason to bother adding restrictions to devices they give their children. Unless there was someone to check what phones a child was carrying, banning that would not prevent parents from handing them down. This is a reality which will affect any attempt to restrict what devices are used, should anyone try to enact one.

  2. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Forbidden fruit

    If you ban it, more people will be interested in it.

    It's going to backfire like "Just say no".

    teen1> Oh there is some secret part of the internet they don't want me to see? How do I access it!

    teen2> Yes peasants, I know how to access the dark web, it is much better than your pedestrian internet. I belong to the cool kids.

    teen3> *receives a link* *sees page is blocked by ISP* Hmm... *googles* "how to bypass ISP blockade". Hmm... *orders a VPS, creates personal VPN by copy pasting commands* Hmm... okay.

    etc.

    1. stiine Silver badge

      Re: Forbidden fruit

      Its easier than that. They just have to use the free wifi in the local constabulary. Or use Microsoft Bing.

    2. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Forbidden fruit

      Kids have a lot more time to suss all of this stuff out too. I've got work, household chores and all sorts of other stuff I have to get done every day that many kids don't. They've also got a big consulting network comprised of all of their school mates where I have a few good friends that I'm not talking to every day and aren't going to bother continuously about figuring out some thing online just because. Besides all of that, being a bit naughty isn't as compelling as it once was and the consequences of being really naughty are much greater.

      1. JamesTGrant

        Re: Forbidden fruit

        That’s exactly how I learned - by the time I was doing my A Levels I had a cracked f/w running on our home modem - with a hole cut into the top and a heat sink on the two hottest chips and cooling fan glued to the top. My folks were happy that there was someone in the house that could tell them when it was a ‘turn off and on again, or problem that needs a phone call to ISP’ and I wasn’t motivated to do anything more nefarious than downloading lots of pictures of ladies with no clothes on and playing computer games like Championship Manager and hacking stats!

    3. Blogitus Maximus

      Re: Forbidden fruit

      Most of this is solved by having a mobile phone rather than a mobile computer in their pockets.

      Make and receive phone calls and if you want to get real retro, text. Here endeth the list of things a mobile need do. This entire debacle is offloading responsibilities once again as consumers are too lazy to educate themselves before handing over lots of powerful tech to their kids willy nilly.

  3. Joe-Thunks

    The law is not everything

    -- He went on to highlight the UK's strict rules around hosting and propagating harmful content online, such as terrorist material, that are already in place.

    As with illegal drugs, this shows the limits of the law versus reality. Making something illegal does not stop it, nor is it much of a deterrent to those people who are intent on crime.

    -- one in four exhibiting illegal behaviors

    That means the law is probably misguided. Criminalising a quarter of any part of society is stupid off the top of the scale. Nor will locking up a few to send a message, or words to that effect, have any effect.

    1. cyberdemon Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: The law is not everything

      And -especially in the case of teenagers- banning it only makes them want it more. Streisand Effect etc.

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: The law is not everything

      Who needs ridiculously invasive laws when PARENTS are the ones ultimately responsible for what their kids are doing.

      Parents, it seems, need to take control of kids' phones and internet access. Start with the following:

      "If you want to use TIk Tok, you need to buy your own phone and service plan. Until then, this is MY phone and I am allowing you to USE it, at MY discretion,"

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The law is not everything

        Riiiiight... that works until the phone is outside of the line of sight of the patent. Unless the phone is handcuffed to the parent with a Kensington lock?

        There is no parental control that can't be got around because it's just lip service from multinational tech corporations who prize engagement above everything else.

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: The law is not everything

          You are right that there is no parental control that can't be bypassed if you assume the child trying to bypass it is perfectly knowledgeable and has unlimited resources, but they usually are not. You can try to parent in a number of ways, and one of the ones you can choose is to only provide hardware that you have first configured to restrict the access provided to the child. There are lots of options out there for how to do it, from the manufacturers and from third party companies you can pay. Or you can try telling the child not to do something even though they have the ability to, which can work but not always. Or you can try explaining to the child why they should not do something they have the ability to and relying on them not to do it. Each has its positives and negatives and none is perfect. There is a reason why being a parent is hard. The best approach probably combines multiple options, but expecting that there is a perfect answer that will prevent anything bad from happening if only all of technology and society were bent to your will is not going to work and is going to cause more problems.

          1. An_Old_Dog Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: The law is not everything

            if you assume the child trying to bypass it is perfectly knowledgeable and has unlimited resources, but they usually are not.

            They don't need to be perfectly-knowlegable, nor do they need unlimited resources, to bypass restrictions.

            Just as "script kiddies" use the work of experts without necessarily understanding it, Joe Average Kid can use the work of whomever was knowlegable, and passed that info on (or perhaps sold it on).

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The law is not everything

          dumbphones ftw

          https://eu-browse.startpage.com/av/anon-image?piurl=https%3A%2F%2Fpisces.bbystatic.com%2Fimage2%2FBestBuy_US%2Fimages%2Fproducts%2F6538%2F6538307_rd.jpg&sp=1708333034T85ee1ff481d5bb6e9b66531c7ad787172ae185b32719260ae58b138ad2cca9a0

        3. Cliffwilliams44 Silver badge

          Re: The law is not everything

          I can assure you these 2 aspiring serials killers were showing suspicious behavior long before this event occurred. Ther problem is no one was paying attention, not the parents, not the teachers, not anyone!

          That is a very root of all these kinds of events, mental illness, dangerous behavior, parents are always the last to admit it! Even when the evidence is staring them in the face. Then schools are now so focused on "maybe the boy wants to be a girl" instead of anything that may be a real problem!

          New laws and regulations on the internet are not going to fix this!

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: The law is not everything

        Classic control freak response - and one likely to elicit a strong rebellion

        There are better ways of approaching the issue but this one is a classic case of "If you want to get something done, forbid your kids from doing it"

        1. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

          Re: The law is not everything

          "likely to elicit a strong rebellion". There hasn't been one so far. Nobody that howls about it even knows what the effect would be. And they don't want to know, either.

      3. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: The law is not everything

        "Who needs ridiculously invasive laws when PARENTS are the ones ultimately responsible for what their kids are doing."

        The government wants to take over that job and in many cases there can be a good justification made. What would turn that around is if the parents were held responsible for the acts of their minor child. How many parents would keep better track if they had to spend their days off painting over graffiti or picking up trash in the local park?

        When I was growing up, the police were the least of my worries. My concern is what my dad might do if I were caught doing something bad. My dad bought a small pickup for me to use when I got my license. I put it that way as it was registered in his name and the truck came with a list of rules. The most serious rule breaking/bad behavior would have him selling the truck. I did get a parking ticket one time and owned up right away. I borrowed my mother's car when mine was in the shop and didn't put the parking tag for the college (started while still in high school) in mom's car. It was an honest mistake and I was let off the hook where "the law" would have me losing use of my car for a week for a parking ticket. My dad could be tough, but he as also very fair. Nothing he required of me was onerous or out of line. When I was staying with him, I had chores. It was a ranch so there were always things to do. When I was done, I could ask to go run off with my friends and as long as I did my chores properly, the answer was never in doubt. How many parents these days set the same sort of bounds?

        1. Probie

          Re: The law is not everything

          Mine do, but I feel I am in a minority. Its not that easy though, because I suspect like me one of your parents had enough time to devote to you a day or a week that it made a noticable impact, my wife and I make sure there is enough time, but I am lucky because I have a job good enough that we do not struggle to find that time between us.

          Its not always that easy for parents whom are having ot work 50 hrs per week each to have that time and provide for the family, this is one of the ways I think government lets parents down.

        2. LybsterRoy Silver badge

          Re: The law is not everything

          -- My concern is what my dad might do if I were caught doing something bad. --

          Here's the upvotes I can't register +1000

          The other point is that if an adult came to my parents and said "he's done X" and I said I hadn't - guess who got believed. Slightly different today.

    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: The law is not everything

      It's worth noting that around 1/3 of ALL sex offenders are under 18

      Our whole criminal structure is likely badly constructed (at least it's not as bad as the USA) and needs overhauling with an emphasis on prevention/education/mental health

      1. Bebu Silver badge
        Windows

        Re: The law is not everything

        《It's worth noting that around 1/3 of ALL sex offenders are under 18》

        That is potentially a larger concern than a isolated homicide or two. The James Bulger tragedy would pre-date any influence of the dark web.

        The data (from the UK) that might be pertinent: has this proportion changed in the last 30 years? and as a proportion of the age cohort? ie are 16 year old committing more offences? (M/F ratios?) How much of any increase is due to legislative capture and enforcement? ie how many the prosecutions were for acts that weren't offences 20 years ago or if they were they weren't then actively prosecuted. Age profiles would be useful to determine the most serious offences are being committed by increasingly younger offenders?

        Answers to these types of questions in cases of (non-lethal) violence which obviously overlaps the previous, might give a clearer insight as to what the root causes might be (and excludes others.)

        As another post suggested aggression is possibly part of adolescent (male?) development in which case the nannification of contact sports might have blocked an avenue of release or sublimation. When playing (field) hockey as a youth you learnt very quickly not to piss off your opponents. :) From what I have seen of ice hockey* its really is a form of armed combat. :)

        I have often stated that civility is what men have learnt in order to avoid the otherwise inevitable spilt blood and broken bones. I understand women between themselves do things differently and often inflicting much greater injury.

        The loss of civility in public life everywhere is infecting all strata of our communities and increasing levels of often mindlessly senseless violence must be anticipated.

        *Mostly from the CA tv series Letterkenny

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: The law is not everything

          The proportions haven't changed in decades. The Internet hasn't really changed anything and whilst the primary factor is abuse when younger, there are almost as many "from caring homes" who wander down that rabbit hole

          It's also worth noting that abuse perpetrators (of all types) are almost equally split across the sexes, biases in reporting/recording mean that entire classes of victims are ignored and there's a mindset amongst the establishment that only one group can be abusers

          There's a _lot_ of work to be done as a society.

          Human nature is _ugly_, the dark web is doing is holding up a mirror and forcing us to confront it whilst those who want to shove the genie back in the bottle are inadvertently perpetuating the problem by allowing it to fester in the shadows

          Sunlight is one of the best disinfectants

          1. ghp

            Re: The law is not everything

            The proportions have changed drastically recently, with the "deepnudes" which are criminal offences and "en vogue" with, but not only, the kids.

        2. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: The law is not everything

          "From what I have seen of ice hockey* its really is a form of armed combat. :)"

          The local league I played in didn't allow checking. Most of us were working professionals and didn't want to wind up in hospital with broken bits. The defenseman I was paired with quite often was an orthopedic surgeon, so he was good to know. There were a few other doctors, a couple of lawyers and a bunch of other business owners like me. We all loved the game but left the mortal combat aspects to the guys on TV with big salaries and hot/cold running medical coverage.

      2. Ian Johnston Silver badge

        Re: The law is not everything

        It's worth noting that around 1/3 of ALL sex offenders are under 18

        Before I worry overmuch about that I need to know what the offences are, and whether it refers to offences or convictions. For example, it's not really surprising that a lot of young people in relationships which straddle the age of consent do things which the law doesn't like but which in practice are entirely consensual and cause no harm to anyone.

      3. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: The law is not everything

        "It's worth noting that around 1/3 of ALL sex offenders are under 18"

        I remember a story where a gf/bf wound up 'with child'. Both were in high school, but the boy was 18 at the time and the girl 17. Both sets of parents were not happy, but supportive. The law viewed the matter differently and charged the boy with rape. I can't remember if I ever found out what the judge said, but thought that the matter involved a judge was silly. If convicted, the boy would wind up in prison for a number of years and have to register as a sex offender on release. Because of that story, I have my doubts when it comes to statistics about sex offenders. If an underage girl uses her phone to take a reveling photo to send to her boyfriend, he can be up for charges of possessing child pron. She might be scolded but there's an odd problem with charging a minor if they self-produce the content on their own without any coercion (US). It has been reported on multiple occasions usually due to the boy showing the photo around.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Let's teach kids in school about the dark web and how they shouldn't ever use it. Do we really think telling kids not to do something is going to work in the way we expect? As soon as one kid in a school finds something online of interest you can guarantee it won't be long before the rest of the school know.

    1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Maybe that's the idea. Get more kids to view harmful content and then use it as an excuse for enacting even more strict laws about accessing and monitoring the use of internet.

    2. Mike 137 Silver badge

      Root causes?

      "As soon as one kid in a school finds something online of interest "

      The fundamental question we need to answer is "why are torture and murder sites interesting to kids?", and then find a fix for that. However the effective answer will probably need such a societal culture shift that it's not going to be deliverable.

      Part of that answer is that the adrenalin rush has been exploited for ages to sell goods and services, and unfortunately it's subject to habituation, requiring ever stronger stimuli to trigger it, so the baseline itself has become an excessive level of excitement.

      Another part is that passive consumption of electronic media has largely supplanted actually doing things that resulted in sufficient satisfaction at lower levels. When I was a kid, we built and flew model aeroplanes, scrounged components from old kit and built radios, hiked for miles cross country at weekends and played a lot of sport. All of these were challenging and delivered recognition of real achievement, which was our 'high'.

      Finally, although it's unpopular to say so, most of us live in societies that are excessively pre-occupied by sex and violence from a very early age (via movies and marketing).

      Putting all this together, it's clear that reversing these trends is fundamental to the societal change that might solve the problem. But who among the media moguls and marketeers is going to start?

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Root causes?

        The fundamental assumption in your statement is that torture and murder sites are interesting to a lot of kids. While there are undoubtedly some, you and the campaigners here are alleging that it's a large group, whereas I've seen evidence so far that it was what, three of them? There are certainly more, but you can't paint this as an epidemic from one data point. Before we declare something a societal scourge that needs tremendous effort, significant changes, and plenty of side-effects to resolve, it is fair to ask how widespread the problem we're trying to solve really is.

        1. Mike 137 Silver badge

          Re: Root causes?

          @doublelayer

          "you and the campaigners here are alleging that it's a large group"

          Nowhere did I suggest it was a large group that perpetrate extreme acts. However, it should be noted that quite probably a majority of "detective" stories and movies centre around murder, the most popular video games by far seem to be those relating to mayhem of one sort or another (e.g. "first person shooters"), and a high proportion of kids do indeed find them entertaining. The kind of incident that triggered the current debate is an extreme exception, but the general level of acceptance of violence as entertainment is objectively pretty high. As the baseline is so high, the threshold for deviance into extreme behaviour is closer to the norm that it should be, resulting as it does in "hardening of the arteries" -- loss of empathy for suffering.

          1. doublelayer Silver badge

            Re: Root causes?

            I wasn't referring to violence in media. I was referring to this:

            "The fundamental question we need to answer is "why are torture and murder sites interesting to kids?", and then find a fix for that."

            There is a difference between a crime show where somebody gets murdered in the first scene and then the rest of the episode involves finding the one who did it, conveniently ending in their capture after forty minutes of magical computers, and a site that shows actual or realistic torture. A lot more people watch the former. You cannot assume that people liking the former leads to people liking the latter, nor that the existence of the former makes the latter anything near a widespread phenomenon. Nor have you really demonstrated any change, given that entertainment depicting violence is not at all new.

            1. LybsterRoy Silver badge

              Re: Root causes?

              -- after forty minutes of magical computers --

              Upvoted for this alone. (my wife thinks NCIS is a good show)

          2. Blazde Silver badge

            Re: Root causes?

            the general level of acceptance of violence as entertainment is objectively pretty high. As the baseline is so high, the threshold for deviance into extreme behaviour is closer to the norm that it should be

            It's been pretty conclusively shown that young people are blessed with brains able to distinguish real violence from fictional violence, and experience very different reactions to the two. There isn't a 'ban 1st person shooters, they're numbing our kids empathy' narrative to be found here. If anything games & sport provide an emotional outlet as well as a time sink that displaces real violence.

            The problem is that a small fraction of the population don't have empathy in the first place, exposure to violent media or not. Most regulate themselves because they recognise going to prison isn't so fun. Brianna's killers mystifyingly believed they could get away with it, so perhaps teaching kids about the strong criminal deterrents already in place would be a good starting point. I don't know what it's like now but when I was in school there was zero education on the law or criminal justice system, which is a bit bizarre when you think about it.

            1. LybsterRoy Silver badge

              Re: Root causes?

              -- It's been pretty conclusively shown that young people are blessed with brains able to distinguish real violence from fictional violence --

              They still banned Tom & Jerry!

              1. Spanners Silver badge
                Big Brother

                Re: Root causes?

                They still banned Tom & Jerry!

                I thought they banned the, rather racist, portrayal of the maid.

          3. Jellied Eel Silver badge

            Re: Root causes?

            The kind of incident that triggered the current debate is an extreme exception, but the general level of acceptance of violence as entertainment is objectively pretty high. As the baseline is so high, the threshold for deviance into extreme behaviour is closer to the norm that it should be, resulting as it does in "hardening of the arteries" -- loss of empathy for suffering.

            Yep. IMHO though, the problem is most people's exposure to violence is totally unrealistic. I think if we want to discourage violence, we should show it as it is. Hero gets shot, winces a bit, shrugs it off and beds the leading lady.. But no nipples shown because that'll corrupt the kids. People get stabbed or beaten and also shrug it off. The reality is often very different and kids aren't being shown the consequences of those actions. Sometimes they are, so I remember a anti-gang/gun video with a gangbanger going over the injuries he recieved after being shot multiple times over something really trivial. Here's where a bullet hit the stomach and required 3' of intestines removing, here's the colostomy bag, here's where one hit the spine causing paralysis etc etc. Months of pain, surgery and physio because the victim apparently disrespected someone's girl.

            It's much the same with the current conflicts around the world. We talk about 'precision munitions', but don't show the carnage those cause. We show lots of footage of drones hitting vehicles, but don't show the aftermath. Perhaps we should, then perhaps people wouldn't cheer on one side or the other. Warning: This footage contains scenes that some may find disturbing, but we're going to show it anyway because if it bleeds, it leads.. But we won't show too much blood, we'll pixellate that and leave the rest to your imagination. Or your search engine to find the uncensored versions.

          4. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

            Re: Root causes?

            the most popular video games by far seem to be those relating to mayhem of one sort or another (e.g. "first person shooters"), and a high proportion of kids do indeed find them entertaining.

            There has to be some other factor involved which causes people to differentiate -- or not differentiate -- between "killing" people in an FPS computer game, and harming real people. I've been playing FPS games for the last 30 years, and I'd like to think I've not lost my empathy.

            Hmm ... I dislike/won't watch pointlessly-violent movies or animations, because they make me uncomfortable. And, though I've been playing FPSes for 30+ years, I haven't played any new FPS games for probably 20 years -- I'm still playing Quake and Urban Terror. What is different in newer computer games and movies is the apparent realism of the imagery. Realistic-looking violent imagery may well have a desensitising effect.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Root causes?

        > The fundamental question we need to answer is "why are torture and murder sites interesting to kids?"

        This gets into some interesting 1970s studies on TV watching - observing prepubescents showed that violence appealed to them, whilst sexual/romantic content made them uncomfortable - even when the violence tended towards realistic rather than Wile E Coyote and anvils

        As they get a little older those preferences change, but there are some pathologically deep urges that need to be addressed

        Both of these content areas are likely to bring them to the dark web, with the thrill of "exploring the unknown/forbidden" being a strong initial impetus

        Remember, kids have fundamentally different brain structures to adults regarding personal danger analysis and this part doesn't really fully activate until around 25

      3. Probie

        Re: Root causes?

        FIFY,

        The fundamental question we need to answer is "why are torture and murder sites interesting to anyone ?"

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Root causes?

          "The fundamental question we need to answer is "why are torture and murder sites interesting to anyone ?""

          Why can't so many people never learn maths? How come women, on average, aren't as good at spatial analysis?

          When I see people that have obviously gone around the twist, I have a hard time understanding their lack of connection with reality. I expect there are a long list of reasons why people might be drawn to violence.

      4. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      re: it won't be long before the rest of the school know.

      Exactly. A long time ago... before computer networking was even a dream in DARPA's minds, the cool kids would gather behind the bike shed's at school and do two things.

      1) - trade ciggies. You could buy Players No 6's in packets of 5 or 10 (some places would sell you a single fag).

      2) - look at the centrefolds of mags like Playboy.

      If we got caught with 1) our parent would ask, can I have one.

      and 2), we get a slap around the head and told not to do it again. If it was your father then he'd confiscate the offending pages and watch them while he did his No'2's.

      It if was your mother then you'd be in purgatory for weeks.

      Today? Kids plan to kill another one just for the fun of it.

      Progress? Backwards.

      This is all part of the reason why I refuse to sign up for any social media site. Far too much anti-social behaviour for my liking.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: re: it won't be long before the rest of the school know.

        "Today? Kids plan to kill another one just for the fun of it."

        The reason there's a whole genre of movies about groups of kids who gang up to pick on XYZ loner (who then fights back and wins) is because this happens a LOT and has gone on virtually forever

        The unrealistic part about THESE movies is the loner fighting back

      2. Richard 12 Silver badge
        Childcatcher

        Re: re: it won't be long before the rest of the school know.

        This isn't new.

        The murderers of James Bulger are probably the most recent similar case. If you look you'll find more, almost certainly going back to the dawn of prehistory.

        That pair weren't influenced by "the dark web". Taking away their smartphones would have been rather difficult, as they hadn't been invented.

        This has little or nothing to do with technology. It's social/societal - their parents and "the village" around them.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A long time ago... the cool kids would gather behind the bike shed's at school

        Like you know anything about what the cool kids got up to at school.

        Get over yourself!

  5. Ian Johnston Silver badge

    It is a shame - but understandable - that the media takes the suggestions of the bereaved seriously, even when they are completely unworkable. Desperately unhappy children sometimes do terrible things; it would be better to reduce that desperate unhappiness than to look for technological impediments to their expression.

  6. tiggity Silver badge

    No Angels

    Not all children are angelic little creatures.

    If a kid was searching for murder / torture related material it would imply they had an interest in it already, if they were blocked from finding such content* their morbid interest in this area would not magically disappear.

    Plenty of film / "TV" content out there with murder & torture content. Same for paintings, books. Not really viable to prevent access to big chunks of culture.

    .... and of course, at the end of the day you cannot really take away someone's imagination, thus a disturbed person can fantasize about whatever they like & nobody will ever know.

    The concern is that UK government / lawmakers are always on the look out to destroy privacy and introduce ID systems & leap at any excuse ("think of the children" ahoy).

    For those outside the UK and / or not familiar with Brianna Ghey case. Ghey was a young male, identifying as female. So not beyond the realms of possibility that Ghey was at some point investigating various trans related content & may have wanted to keep that secret for a while - any idea of privacy like that for young people investigating culturally / personally sensitive areas, would be gone with these privacy destroying plans.

    * lets imagine the fantasy world, technologically unfeasible scenario where this happens

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No Angels

      It goes back to the case of the kids from Columbine High School creating a map of the school in Doom before the shooting. It wasn't the game that was the problem, they could've done the same thing with interior decorating software or a pencil.

      The killers in the Ghey case looked up violent imagery on the dark web, but if that was unavailable they would have just looked up violent imagery on the regular web.

      1. stiine Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: No Angels

        Why? Dont' those miscreants know that if enough of them band together that can defeat the police, hands down?

    2. Version 1.0 Silver badge
      Gimp

      Re: No Angels

      It's the same environment as banning the American XL bully dogs, which just do whatever their owners teach them and act with. And kids just learn to do what their parents (their owners) do, or completely fail to do too.

  7. katrinab Silver badge
    Facepalm

    All of these proposals seem to work on the assumption that grown-ups are more capable than children when it comes to computers.

    I don't think that assumption should go unchallenged.

    1. Andytug

      Grown ups IT literacy is getting worse, not better

      There seems to be an assumption that as time goes on the IT literacy of the population should increase. If the people recruited into our organisation are anything to go by, the exact opposite is true. Also, during COVID lockdown, when hundreds of laptops were given to parents for kids to do work at home, the blank looks they got....... people know phones and apps, and that's about it. Anything else is akin to magic, so I wouldn't bother looking at parents for technical solutions. Social ones, absolutely, teach them right from wrong, but not IT.....

      1. DanUK

        Re: Grown ups IT literacy is getting worse, not better

        There's an amusing comic strip where a modern day person goes back in time and is trying to explain about modern gadgets and how they work... of course, they don't have a clue, it might as well be witchcraft!

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Proposed new hate crime laws

    "What are the proposed new hate crime laws and why the delay?"

    https://www.irishtimes.com/politics/2023/12/05/qa-what-are-the-proposed-new-hate-crime-laws-and-why-the-delay/

    "Ireland Just SHOCKED The World And Elon Is FIGHTING BACK!"

    https://rumble.com/v4djesu-ireland-just-shocked-the-world-and-elon-is-fighting-back.html

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Give useful advice, stop encouraging conformance

    Children commit criminal acts regularly, which is why we've always had a limitation of liability declaring children not to be responsible for anything (including killing other people) until they turn ten years old. Whether we're talking playground fights or saying/doing nasty things which push the boundaries of legal conduct socially, there's no denying that a sizeable chunk of kids learn right from wrong by doing things!

    As per usual, the absolutely useless advice of "encourage any concerned parents and teachers to speak to young people with an interest in tech, help them understand the dangers" is being given. The reason this does not work is because most parents and teachers are objectively too incompetent with technology to be able to command the respect required to do this. The only way this can be resolved is the same way any other advice is given: By having actual experts who do command respect give people actual advice on how to use Tor and other tools safely, regardless of whether the reasons for using it would give many reasonable people the ick, and irrespective of the potential legality (or illegality) of the content.

    Experts should also stop being hamstrung by petty morality and the letter of the law because it limits the effectiveness of any good advice they give. To use a drugs as an analogy, when young people are educated on cannabis use by experienced drugs experts, they're not denied information on the best ways to safely get high, despite the fact that possession is illegal. Priority is given to ensuring they're getting the most out of their recreational activities without harming themselves or others around them, irrespective of what anyone else thinks. This is done because the government (rightly) sees prohibition as a lost battle and instead focuses on minimising as much real-world harm as possible. This approach should be our first choice, not our last resort.

  10. Pete Sdev Bronze badge

    A reasonable solution is needed

    In the pre-internet days, it was easy for parents to control media consumption with the watershed and the fact the TV was somewhere easily observable.

    Even in the early days of consumer Internet access, dial-up limited access time, and there was often just the one family PC, again often in an observable place.

    These days, I don't know how you'd do it. The better routers allow site blocking and limiting of connection time, but that's only half the problem. Supervising a teenager"s phone 24/7 use is not practical, nor desirable.

    1. The Basis of everything is...

      Re: A reasonable solution is needed

      Standard feature on Androids is Family Link. I control when my kids phone is locked or unlocked. I can set a limit on how much they can use it during the day. I can put limits on individual apps usage. All installs need my approval.

      I periodically ask them to let me look at their phone and check messages and browser history and we do have chats about the content found. And we do occasionally talk to thier friends parents about the same. And no, my kids don't hate me for that that (yet), we've explained about why and if they get messages they're not comfortable with they do show us and we have raised it with teachers and other parents.

      They also know that even though they'll shortly get the option to opt out of control (cos Google decide they're chronologically old enough at 13) they will lose their phone if they do so (my wifi, I pay the bill too. I have ultimate control) and they will be given a dumb phone instead as ultimately that's just as good for arranging pickup when the train home from school is cancelled.

      I know it won't last and at some point there will be a huge bust-up about how unfair life is, that's part of growing up / having kids. But my house, my rules. Their education and protection.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A reasonable solution is needed

        Really? After my girlfriend's oldest daughter moved out at 17, we recycled all of the old phones (read Lithium ion batteries) that she abandoned when she left. 2 iPhones and 3 flip phones, all with different numbers, and all paid for by god-knows-who...probably the 18 year olds that were banging her since she was 11. She's grown up since then; she has a pet, a car, an apartment, and a full time job. So don't think that you're going to be able to control how your kids access information, if you do, you're just fooling yourself. What you need to do is teach them right from wrong. If you can't do that, you should never have been allowed to have children.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A reasonable solution is needed

        You can only actually achieve any of that through trust and consent.

        If it is forced, they will simply find ways around whatever limits you try to enforce, in many cases simply because the limits are being enforced.

    2. thondwe

      Re: A reasonable solution is needed

      Vast majority of Parents (and politicians) have zero clue with technology - and certainly not to the level of effectively managing parental controls or producing workable laws.

      Laws should be stating which acts are illegal (e.g. Possession of images, Cyber Stalking etc etc) and not trying a whack-a-mole approach to the all methods people use to perform the acts?

      AND My kids get regular classes from police etc - as part of "Well Being" days - but parents don't! and certainly don't get parental tech classes - most parents don't get how to be a parent classes!!

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Say what?

    How is there enough subject matter to even fill a reg article on this? Shitty parenting is the issue here. Shitty parents breed shitty kids who become shitty adults.

    Why are parents even allowing their children the opportunity to use the dark web. This isn’t a problem that requires a technical solution. Just a small amount of responsibility would resolve it.

    1. stiine Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: Say what?

      Remember, the shitty kids of shitty parents already have shitty kids of their own. Its too late.

    2. Pete Sdev Bronze badge

      Re: Say what?

      While I won't obviously deny shitty parenting exists, most parents are attempting to find a middle ground between the extremes of total irresponsibility on one side and controlling/helicopter parenting on the other.

      As I mentioned in my other comment, contemporary technology makes the job of parenting more difficult in this aspect than in the past.

      I'd point out that in this particular case, the murderer had from all accounts a perfectly acceptable home environment.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Say what?

      For every complex societal problem there is a solution that is simple, straghtforward and wrong.

      You understand nothing about raising children, being a parent or being a child.

  12. Ideasource Bronze badge

    Dark web is just the larger world outside the garden.

    How do we prevent children from discovering the real world and so protect and preserved their innocence?

    The answer is you can't.

    Either they'll find it on their own, or larger reality will find them.

    The dark web is just the original internet in which the civilized areas are islands connect to each other with blinders to the outside as a more recent program of censorship running within of a pre-existing larger frame.

    Eventually someone looks any other direction but the narrow accepted one and there's no going back. They are instinctually compelled as humans to learn about the world around them.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I pity today’s kids

    Even though they have many advantages I never had at their age.

    Looking back, and without realising it, NOT being connected 24/7 was wonderful. The world was very local, there were wonders to explore in your own town. Your circle of friends was small and you often knew everyone nearby. If there were bad’uns around, you rarely knew of them.

    But then, I grew up in the bush, your mileage in the big smoke would have varied greatly.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I pity today’s kids

      Totally agree, I was badly bullied at school and I dread to think how it would have been in these modern days, thankfully my offspring never had to endure this by avoiding the markers that make you a target so they were popular and has a much happier childhood.

  14. theOtherJT Silver badge

    Children aren't idiots....

    ...well, ok, some children are idiots, but so are some adults. They're not idiots just because they're children.

    Children are ignorant which is an entirely different thing, and ignorance is totally normal. Everyone is ignorant. There's too much to know not to be. Everything you know today, you were ignorant about until you learned about it. Telling kids they can't do something - as many people in this thread have already pointed out - is actually an amazing way to drive them to reduce their ignorance.

    Sure, the dark web is a pretty sketchy place - but let's be fucking honest here, the regular web isn't exactly a well lit, soft-play area under constant supervision is it? The idea that we can achieve anything by trying to keep them ignorant is exactly the same kind of idiocy that the "If we don't tell them about sex, they won't have any" crowd perpetrates. It doesn't work. It's been proven over and over not to work.

    For better or worse the internet exists. The dark web exists. You're not going to get anywhere by trying to keep kids from finding out about it or preventing them from using it. Like all potentially harmful things the best thing to do is explain to them what it is, what it's not, what can happen, and how best to protect yourself. Then you sit back and hope like fuck you have a good enough relationship with your child that they listen to you.

    If you don't, there's no amount of law passing that's going to fix that one.

    1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

      Re: Children aren't idiots....

      Children are ignorant which is an entirely different thing, and ignorance is totally normal.

      Well said. Children - from toddlerhood upwards - generally make well-thought out and considered decisions based on very incomplete information, and it's a common and huge mistake for adults to interpret this as stupidity.

  15. ghp

    Who needs the dark web when you can watch Gaza, or earlier Ukraine, on TV or clear web? Found anything that beats those via Tor?

  16. steviebuk Silver badge

    Burner phone

    Simple. It shouldn't be up to the government to be the nanny. Parents, if they want their kid to at least have the means to call in an emergency (now pretty much all pay phones have gone), then you buy then the old skool 90s burner phone. They are cheap, for a reason, and can only dial out, text or recieve calls. Put a limit on the txt messaging if needed.

    It might be difficult, but still up to the parents to monitor their kids.

    Adam Savage had a funny story of one of his sons he grounded and confiscated his phone. Handed it to him every evening I think it was. Anyway, at one point for whatever reason Adam checked the phone and realised he'd handed him a dummy phone and not the one he actually uses :o)

  17. wolfetone Silver badge

    The dark web is one thing. But what about what a child sees at 6pm on the news? Across all spectrums of what we're given really.

    It's easier to blame what you don't understand than what you can see.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maybe the UK should focus on their media and government demonizing trans people and making their lives a little less of an absolute hell.

  19. Http404

    I'm a former teacher. Here's why it won't work.

    Not all parents care, some parents don't care at all. I saw kids aged about 10 with iPhones and access to the internet. By the time they were 15 I imagine they had seen everything there was to see.

    Now, just because your child has their phone locked down doesn't mean that their friends' phones aren't. All you need is one phone in a friendship group with access to the net and your child will be able to view everything.

    When I was a kid, you had to get hold of dodgy top shelf magazines or oogle at underwear in a clothes catalogue. Nowadays, kids can view more porn in 10 minutes than most pre-internet people would see in a lifetime.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "Nowadays, kids can view more porn in 10 minutes than most pre-internet people would see in a lifetime."

      That said, the way to deal with it is not to deny it exists, but to explain why much of it is harmful and utterly unrealistic

      This stuff exists because of human nature - which is downright ugly - and people need to understand that concealing the ugliness leaves kids ill-equipped to deal with encountering it

      (See also: "Stranger Danger" - which accounts for a vanishingly small amount of harm to children. The vast majority of harm comes from "trusted" circles including family members. After all, a predator WANTS to blend in and be unseen. You're not going to leave your kids with the obnoxious hairy biker barbarians)

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lets imagine for a moment that you had to have a valid identity

    I strongly disagree that the answer can only ever be social. The responsibility must lie with the content owners.

    I don't see the problem with having a valid identity on the internet. Amazon knows who I am when I buy stuff from their site, the Guardian knows who I am when I log in and read the paper, the Register knows who I am when I post.

    The default should be *deny* for sites. I should be able to browse the web and go wherever I want. But I am limited if my identity is not known. I can browse Amazon, I can see some articles from news sites but unless I have an account I can't see the real stuff, take part or buy.

    This would make it easier to police. You would police the sites to make sure they are running the default 'no access'. This could even be done automatically by scripts and crawlers.

    If you want to be anonymous, browse the web, then I think it should be up to the sites to put controls in place. The internet is not real life, people don't show pictures by default on the street of death and porn, so why should the internet be different?

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Lets imagine for a moment that you had to have a valid identity

      And when the website is in another country?

      You're making assumptions that simply don't stack up. I've been warning people for 30 years that the Internet contains many equivalants of the dodgy back street along the waterfront, but the means to access it trivially - it's not a place for young kids to access unsupervised, blocking software simply doesn't work and the best defense is to teach them both that the bad stuff exists and there are bad people out there - both online and nearby, some posing as family friends

      "people don't show pictures by default on the street of death and porn"

      That entirely depends on the streets you walk upon and when

    2. Ideasource Bronze badge

      Re: Lets imagine for a moment that you had to have a valid identity

      Oh but they do put up pictures of death and p*** by default.

      If there's an abortion clinic then by default someone will be on the corner displaying grotesque pictures of death.

      If there is clothing to be sold, soft porn in the form purposefully and sexually excitable imagery is par for the course.

      The definitions of what is porn and what isn't slide conveniently to support exceptions to recognition for convenience of other pursuits.

      Apparently the majority of people are dependent upon misdirection to give themselves permission to do what they're going to do anyway.

      Firstly I don't have a problem with p***. And I don't value individual human bodies as much as I value individual consciousnesses and I don't believe consciousness even develops until a person is 7 or 8 years old. Until then they are wired for mimicry.

      Not to say that I can't form an emotional attachment with a child . I have nieces and nephews but I helped to raise during their formative years but I do consciously recognize they they had not yet diverged to become a person yet. And my attachment was mostly to my own personal vision of the future for them.

      Now they have diverged enough to shatter that vision and so replace it with their emerging divergence from external expectation to self-authored New direction aka the person.

  21. DanUK

    In the old days, us kids would have been watching a copy of Hellraiser that someone managed to rent from the corner shop. Thankfully I have little scarring from this experience but I'm grateful we didn't have access to the unfiltered internet at that age!

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      "In the old days, us kids would have been watching a copy of Hellraiser that someone managed to rent from the corner shop. "

      Let the age guesses commence.

      I remember sneaking into a drive-in cinema with my cousins to watch a Dirty Harry or Charles Bronson movie. I say sneaking, but they didn't seem to care. It was R rated so there's no way any of us could have bought a ticket for a sit-down cinema. It wasn't the sort of movie that I'd prefer given a choice. I expect that I would have become numb to that sort of movie if I was constantly exposed to them. I like comedies and especially sci-fi comedy. Just watched Paul again last night. I may have seen it enough to pick up on all of the references except the most obscure. Anybody want a bagel? Huh?, interested?

  22. Nedly

    Determined

    Trying to restrict access can only be achieved successfully on a draconian level.

    I know for a fact that 'the youth' are more than well versed in VPN's & proxies to bypass standard restrictions and only the lazy or quickly bored young person will be prevented from accessing whatever they want.

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