Chris Duque


POSTED: Friday, March 26, 2010

Parents don't need to be computer geeks to protect their children from the worst influences on the Internet. More important than being tech-savvy is being kid-savvy, communicating openly so that youngsters are not misguided or mistreated by peers, or more rarely, by nefarious adults, advises a retired Honolulu police officer who specialized in thwarting cybercrime.

“;You go in any household ... and you find a child with their own computer, mom and dad on their own computer, and they're all doing their own thing when it comes to cyber. But when it's a DVD, movie night, everybody's sitting in front of the big-screen TV together,”; said Chris Duque, who retired in 2007 after 30 years with the Honolulu Police Department. “;Why don't we do that with computers? Sit down, surf together. Start talking to your kids.”;

Duque, 58, was Detective of the Year in 2002. Now a consultant, he advises schools and community groups about Internet safety and does computer forensics for businesses and government agencies.

The Kalihi native and Damien Memorial High School alumnus is a familiar face not only because of his community outreach, but also because of his small roles on Hawaii-based TV series such as “;Magnum, P.I.,”; where he invariably played a bad guy.

As a police officer, he investigated cybercrimes such as child pornography, identity theft, Internet fraud, hacking and harassment.

Now he's helping Hawaii schools cope with problems such as cyberbullying and sexting, as children grow up using technology that leaves plenty of digital fingerprints.

QUESTION: With kids online, are they more likely to be victimized by other kids, or is it the scary, online predator type? Which is more common?

ANSWER: The more common is the kids versus kids, (compared) to adults preying on kids. The adults on kids, that drives the media and drives people's attention, all that. But if you talk about number of incidents, it's basically kids on kids.

Q: What kind of things are we talking about?

A: Cyberbullying ... talking stink - lying, rumors, name-calling. Threats (which, if direct, can be prosecuted). It might start in the playground, at school, and then they take it online.

Q: How do the schools usually respond?

A: Not only cyberbullying, but with bullying in general, the Department of Education does have strong enforcement. One thing about the cyberbullying - a lot of time we have a knee-jerk reaction and we just try to resolve the cyber end of it. We take away the computer, take away the tool for bullying, but we haven't resolved why it happened in the first place.

Q: It seems from the cases I've read about that girls are usually the victims. Is that true?

A: I see a prevalence of cyberbullying

being committed by girls, rather than boys. Boys are much more physical, so if there's any kind of confrontation, the boys will be face-to-face, and ... they'll end up in fights. The boys that tend to do cyberbullying are ones who don't have the physical attributes to do the physical confrontation.

Q: So it's really about power.

A: Yea, power and intimidation. And sometimes it's also because of peers, you know “;mean girls.”; Usually, two, three girls get together and pick on one girl. But if one says “;That's not right,”; then it's gonna diminish. I'm not one expert on children psychology, but I see what the kids are actually doing. And from my experience, it's the girls who are the ones committing, and usually it's because of jealousy, because of self-esteem, because of a boy.

Q: Is it a certain age of girl?

A: Yeah, they start early. They start maybe fourth-grade, already. They peak out around middle school. Another thing that's part of it is that girls write. They release their venting through their writing. Back in the day, my generation, diaries, journals, they were kept hidden. This generation, diaries and journals are for everybody to read on Facebook.

Q: But (the people being written about) suffer real harm, public humiliation?

A: Oh yeah. When we were growing up, and we were doing this stuff these kids are doing now, the impact was local, because we didn't have the technology to make it global, and permanent. I do something stupid in Kalihi when I was growing up, it usually stays within Kalihi. Now what Chris did in Kalihi is global within a couple of seconds.

Q: So what do you tell kids?

A: I talk to them about ethical behavior, and the ethical behavior is not only online, but off-line behavior as well. And this isn't just for kids, it's for all the adults, the kupuna and the business people I talk to as well.

Q: So often lately when problems arise involving students, there's a sexual element. Whether it's sexting or ...

A: Now there's a new thing called scooping.

Q: What's that?

A: When boys walk by and reach into a girl's blouse and grab her (breasts).

Q: That's going on at school?

A: Middle school. ... I haven't heard it over here, but it's on the mainland right now. ...

Q: And you expect it will eventually occur in Hawaii?

A: Yes. That's how it is with everything, good or bad. Kids know what's happening ... and it travels fast.

Q: How do parents stay on top of all this?

A: Communication. That's maybe the easiest answer, but the hardest in practicality. The parents don't have to be tech-savvy. They just have to do their parenting, supervise the activity, asking what (their kids) are doing, what pages they're going to. Talk about what's appropriate, what's not appropriate. Blocking is good, but blocking everything is not going to work. Explain, rather than just saying “;Don't go there.”; When you say “;No,”; that's like a moth to a flame. So it's not so much about learning about computers, it's about learning how to communicate with your child.

Q: If you could talk about some of the things that parents are getting more aware about, such as chat roulette. Are many kids in Hawaii doing that?

A: They're going to the site, yeah. I've been talking to kids and they've been going to that site, but they're getting grossed out and they're not going back again. A lot of times I'm in the predicament where I see stuff that's very, very questionable material, and I want to warn people, but I don't want to give it (more publicity). To me is much more risky than chat roulette. In chat roulette you are randomly communicating with somebody on the other side of the screen. And

99 percent of the time it's a guy, and of that, probably 70 percent or 80 percent, the guy will be masturbating. Now stickam, on the other hand, is a legitimate site, meaning, there's positive uses; I use it for educational training, that sort of thing. But there's also a social networking feature that specializes in live, real-time video streaming. I'd say 80 percent of the time, it's mostly teenage girls broadcasting themselves from their bedrooms. Now which is much more risky behavior, do you think? Going to chat roulette and looking at these guys, or broadcasting yourself to the world on the Internet? The thing is, I don't see people getting warned about

Q: So this quickly devolves into porn?

A: Teenage girls get together, sleep over at their friends' house, and you get two, three girls in front of the camera and they start flaunting themselves. They open a chat and some guy is telling them what to do.

Q: And this is all going on in the girl's bedroom and the parents have no clue?

A: Right. When I do my presentations to the parents and the teachers, I show them this site. And they always ask me “;Why? Why would these girls do this?”; I say, “;Don't ask me. I'm not out there showing my (breasts).”; You gotta start asking the girls. Maybe these girls lack self-confidence, or they don't understand the risks. They're thinking in the safety of their bedroom it's all right to flash in front of the world. But what if the guy's outside in a car, on his laptop? They don't know who they're broadcasting to. They don't know who's recording it. They don't know what they're going to do with that recording after it's over.

Q: We have a society that's teaching girls their value is as a sexual toy.

A: And that's not a recent trend. Girls are being bombarded from all over, from the media, from their peers, from every place, that this is how girls should be. If your family core is strong, if your influence on your daughter is stronger than her peers', then you've got more than half the battle beat. Boys, too; they gotta learn right from wrong. That's one of the biggest problems, when adults fail to do that. That's why when I do my cyber presentations, I always talk to the adults first. First the teachers, then the parents, and the kids are the last ones. ... I need to get the teachers and parents on board. If they fail to communicate with each other and understand their roles, the children are at risk.