Lunch and Learn & the Productive Scholar: Sorat Tungkasiri on Child Internet Safety at Home

Child Internet Safety

This presentation is designed for parents with children who have access to the Internet to better understand the current dangers that exist in the world today.

The talk offers offer background information about past and current threats and trends. The focus of the talks will be: Your Child’s Life Online, Internet Predators, Cyberbullying, dangers of mobile devices, Online Gaming, warning signs, Internet Safety Tips, and much more.

Speaker Bio:

Sorat Tungkasiri is currently a Coordinator at the New Media Center. He first joined the Princeton University community in 2004 as a SCAD, then as a web developer for the Educational Technology Center. Sorat is currently seeking a Masters of Arts Degree from Columbia University with the concentration in Communication, Computing Technology in Education.


Children texting

Your child’s life online

The increasingly “online” lifestyle of children today can cause new and sometimes unforeseen issues for parents. Kids today are in chat rooms, on social networks, writing and sharing information on microblogging sites like Tumblr, doing online gaming, texting friends, and even sometimes doing their homework online.

Tungkasiri showed a public service announcement called “Think before you post.” The complete video can be seen here.

According to statistics presented in the talk, 55% of teens are using social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook. Even larger percentages of younger children are involved in virtual worlds like Disney’s Club Penguin and Nickelodeon’s Nicktropolis. It was widely reported this past summer that Facebooksurpassed the 500 million user mark; the less popular MySpace has over 100 million users. However, Tungkasiri noted, it seems likely that over 40% of the profiles on these sites are fake. ”The danger in fake profiles”, he explained, “is that those profiles can be used to gather information by predators.” Further statistics cited in that talk estimate that children under 18 spend between 8-18 hours a day online; more ominously, it’s likely that 1 in 7 children are sexually solicited online.

Most sites have privacy settings that can help to keep personal information private. When privacy settings are ignored or configured incorrectly, dangerous online situations can take place. Tungkasiri cited the example of a girl named Rebecca who decided to put up an invitation to her birthday party, complete with address and other personal information, on Facebook.  She inadvertently set the permission level of the invitation to “everyone.” Within hours, thousands of strangers had accepted the invitation, and Rebecca and her parents were forced to cancel the party. In another similar case, 50 unknown guests showed up at a party that was intended to be private.

Tungkasiri offered suggestions to parents to help to protect their children on social networks:

  • Follow or friend your child on social networksMake sure children choose appropriate screen names, without terms like “sexy” or “hot”Check their friends list regularly.

Internet predators

NAMBLA or the North American Man Boy Love Association, exists on Facebook as a group. This group is just one example of the kinds of pro-pedophilia groups that exist onFacebook and other social networks, despite strict rules against such group activity.  These kinds of groups exist for the purposes of fostering sexual relationships between adults and children, and are a great resource for predators. A recent news broadcast on this subject can be seen here.

While NAMBLA , upon inspection is a group that makes its intentions clear, there are other more subtle ways in which sexual predators stalk children. Predators often perform a process called grooming, a methodical method by which predators select prey, deliberately choosing to connect with vulnerable children with the intent of creating a secretive sexual relationship. Tungkasiri noted that calls to toll-free 800 numbers are not listed on phone bills, and cost nothing to the child, and are therefore now being used by predators to bypass parental oversight.

Tungkasiri listed several signs that indicate a child might be being groomed. These include:

  1. Spending a lot of time online
  2. Using an online account belonging to someone else
  3. Receiving phone calls from people you don’t know or making calls to numbers you don’t recognize
  4. Recieving gifts, mail or packages from people you don’t know
  5. Turning away from friends and family
  6. Becoming withdrawn or secretive
  7. Minimizing the screen or monitor when you walk into the room

Predators use a method called SITS, or establishing ‘Similar Interests Trust and Secrecy.’ The guiding principle to this sort of relationship is usually a pact in which the predator requests that the child keep the relationship secret, something just between the child and their new, sympathetic “friend.”

Online gaming has become another way for predators to connect with your kids, because online gaming allows for relaxed, casual conversation, similar to a phone call, but without the same level of parental tracking or controls. By joining children in a gaming space, predators have already established a common interest, and can easily develop trust through the fun and exciting team and collaborative elements of a game, or establish a rapport through play. Parents should consider setting rules and restrictions, choose games fitting for the age of  their children, and should monitor gameplay. To underscore these points, Tungkasiri showed a video that outlined the dangers of online gaming.


Cyber-bullying is often the topic of news reports with a tragic ending, and may be the biggest threat in children’s lives today. Some people, referred to as angels of death actually target vulnerable teens in the hopes of encouraging them to suicide or other self-damaging behavior. One example of this is the viral video Star Wars Kid, where a child recorded his super-hero acrobatics in a high school video studio. Cyberbullies at this school got a copy of the video, and spent hours of editing and remixing it to make fun of him.

In another example theTop 6 ways to kill Piper described the ways in which a real 6th grader might be killed in an animated short made by her peers.

Tungkasiri noted some ways in which parents can combat cyber-bullying:

  1. Take an active role in your child’s online activities
  2. Frequently check credit card and phone bills for unfamiliar account charges
  3. Take your child seriously if they report an uncomfortable online exchange
  4. Advise kids to never trade personal photographs in the mail or over the Internet
  5. If your child meets a new “friend” online insist on being introduced
  6. Contact your ISP and law enforcement if your child receives pornography via the Internet

Dangers of Mobile devices

Tungkasiri described some of the ways that phones and other mobile devices can be misused, putting children in danger.

Sexting is the act of simulating sex over the Internet, sometimes done with phones over the SMS messaging system, but also using video chat that exists on newer phones, as well as other videoconferencing methods.

Textual harassment is where people engage in text based battles, hurling insults or threats in a silent, but still very hurtful way.

If the child’s phone is under control and supervision, it becomes less dangerous. Parental controls exist in most modern phones. Parents can check, and block, track, or remove applications of the phone, to make sure that they aren’t being misused by children.

Parental controls

In the second session of this talk, Tungkasiri then focused on how to enforce parental controls on various devices and platforms. He explained that the parent should use an administrative account on the child’s computer and give the child a non-administrative account

Tungkasiri demonstrated how to set parental controls in the following platforms:

Windows 7 Parental controls overview

Mac OS Parental Controls overview

Firefox addons

MySpace privacy settings

Facebook privacy settings

YouTube privacy settings

Geotagging & cybercasing

Another danger lurking in technology is literally invisible. Geolocation sharing is an important passive data sharing technology that provides specific location data along with photos and other messages. Used by a predator, it could lead directly to a child, disclosing personal facts about them, including their personal appearance, the location of their home, car, or other information. Similarly, bluetooth, a common local networking protocol, can be used to track the presence of specific people via their devices within a 50 foot radius.

In a demonstration of Tungkasiri demonstrated that cameras and cameraphones that record geolocation data can show where the content from a particular photo was taken. The site shows how to disable geotagging in your phone, so that this danger is diminished. Tungkasiri demoed how to download a photo from the internet and then use a free digital photo data (EXIF data) viewer to see all of the recorded information on the photo. Picasa has this functionality built in. Also, many solutions exist for removing EXIF data from photos. One example is EXIF Cleaner.

Safe sites and services

Tungkasiri showed some examples of kid safe browsers and browsing services, including:

kidzui browser:

kido’z service:



Club Penguin:

Moshi Monsters:

Final tips

Tungkasiri reminded us to keep an open dialogue with our children, and to stay on top of what they are doing. Don’t allow an unmonitored computer to be housed in a private space like a child’s room. Keep it in a high traffic area, and keep an eye on what’s going on there, so that you can help them to stay safe, or to give help if they encounter unwelcome activity on the internet.

Podcast from Day 1 available here. (MP3)

Slides from day 1 available here. (PDF)

Slides from day 2 available here. (PDF)

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