For many of today’s adults, we were taught about “stranger danger” and our risks of being exposed to indecency and danger were more physical than for today’s children because we did not have the internet.
Today’s kids, however, face more insidious threats to their mental and emotional well-being that are constantly shifting and evolving so it’s important for parents to stay informed and educated about what these risks are.
Cyber Flashing is a different way for sexual predators to invade your privacy or that of your children or to transfer other unwanted material using a specific program that is featured on all Apple devices: AirDrop.
What Is AirDrop?
Simply put, AirDrop is an otherwise convenient way for Apple users to transfer content wirelessly among Apple tablets, computers, and phones. Utilizing Bluetooth technology and a wifi connection, users can send content to those who are on the same wifi network and within Bluetooth distance.
AirDrop is a handy way to send information such as photos, documents, media, or contact information to those with whom you share a wifi connection and are within a 30-foot range. But not all content comes from known, benevolent sources.
When receiving an AirDrop download, the user is given a preview of whatever is being sent and which means lewd or inappropriate content will be already seen even if you – or your children – decline to accept and download it.
AirDrop can be particularly problematic when using a public wifi connection or hotspot to connect to the internet. And while there are options within the settings of the app to allow only contacts to send materials (or simply turn off the app), not all iPhone or iPad users do so and for children, it’s important for parents to be aware of – and utilize – these options.
Additionally, sometimes the option to receive from “everyone” is simpler than adding someone as a contact to receive information (for example, to receive someone’s business card or a one-time photo you want to have) and forgetting to turn this option back to “contacts only” can lead to receiving unsolicited materials.
What Is Cyber Flashing
For some older adults, you may recall a cartoon figure wearing a trench coat whose back would be at the camera as he opened up the trench coat to unsuspecting passersby, presumably revealing his nudity beneath it (based on the shocked expressions of the victims’ faces).
Today, technology enables predators to sexually harass people by sending inappropriate images in much the same way — minus the trench coat. Cyber Flashing has become a popular way for marauders to expose unsuspecting users to a range of harmful materials.
From public trains to airlines and parks, people are being victimized and since Apple reported in January that they have reached 1.3 billion active users, the risks associated with using AirDrop are enormous.
For adults, being cyber flashed can be unnerving or even frightening – given that the offender needs to be within a certain distance of us – but for children who lack the awareness of how dangerous such a thing can be or who are unprepared to mentally process what is happening, the threat is much more serious.
How To Disable AirDrop
AirDrop is set to receive material from “everyone” by default so it’s critical to examine your children’s (and your) iPhones and tablets to make sure the settings are set to receive from contacts only or turned off completely. You can immediately disable AirDrop by going to:
Settings (gear) –> General –> AirDrop.
From there, you can set the receiving to off or only contacts.
Technology has increased our connectivity and productivity in many ways. There are certainly countless benefits to being alive in today’s’ technological world. However, it also creates a plethora of ways that sexual predators can find and groom unsuspecting children and since technology advances at an alarming pace, these predators will always be looking for loopholes to get past the best efforts of parents, to victimize vulnerable internet users.
Kids and Cyber Flashing
Of course, as parents, we want to be there all of the time to monitor their activity and keep them safe. Unfortunately, this is not always possible. For this reason, it’s important that kids understand how to handle these situations.
Using age-appropriate conversation, you can explain to your kids what cyber flashing is and what to do if it happens to them. This can help them to feel prepared and knowledgeable should such an incident happen to them or one of their peers. Don’t candy-coat what the risks are; rather, let them know what is appropriate and what is not appropriate and make sure they understand they are not to change the settings that you have put into place and there will be specific consequences for doing so.
What Can Parents Do
For some kids, receiving pornographic or other kinds of unsolicited, inappropriate material may be embarrassing for them and they may blame themselves. That’s why – as parents – it’s important to let them know if they receive any such things that it is not their fault and they can come to you for help and guidance. Many of today’s children are unaware of the dangers associated with technology so it’s our job to ensure they’re safe whether under the same roof, at school, with friends, or in a public area. When we are unable to be physically present with them and their devices, luckily we have trustworthy tools that we can use that gives us peace of mind while also ensuring their safety.