The seemingly harmless iPhone feature parents need to be aware of

I can still remember when I got my first phone and text message. I was in high school. Today, kids are getting phones much earlier. And as that happens, parents need to make sure they are informed about the latest technology pitfalls. While phones, tablets, and the like are not inherently bad (and can be used for great good) there is still plenty of danger associated with them. In that spirit, there’s a seemingly harmless iPhone feature that can actually be quite dangerous. That feature? AirDrop.

I know I have used AirDrop on my iPhone countless times to share pictures, videos, etc. And I didn’t even think about the dangers it poses. But luckily the folks over at Common Sense Media are, and they have this warning:

For the receiver, AirDrop is risky because an image or file can be shared with you without your consent. A sender with bad intentions can bully, harass, and humiliate someone easily and very publicly by sharing embarrassing photos, for example, to a wide group of people using AirDrop. Kids who are sensitive or vulnerable for any reason can also be more affected by the hostility of negative posts.

If someone sends you something inappropriate, you will see a small version of the image pop up on your phone even if you do not accept the file. Also, it has no blocking and reporting tools. For the sender, AirDrop plays into kids’ impulsivity. Kids can share stuff so easily that they don’t have a lot of time to think through the consequences of their actions. Also, if you keep your AirDrop on (and have your phone set to receive content from everyone), your phone name and icon will show up for anyone who accesses AirDrop so long as they’re close by — meaning a stranger could potentially find out your name by matching your phone name with your face on a crowded train, for example.

The only failsafe way to make sure nothing inappropriate comes through is to completely turn AirDrop off. If that’s unrealistic, the article goes on to name a few things you can do instead:

Have the talk. If your kids have phones — not just iPhones — it’s important to talk about how to use any communication tool safely, responsibly, and respectfully.

Give them guidelines. Explain what’s OK to post or share (a silly, non-offensive meme) and what’s definitely not OK (intimate, sexual photos).

Talk about sexual harassment. Girls and women have reported receiving AirDropped intimate photos from creeps in public places. Receiving these photos can feel humiliating. Make sure kids know they’re not at fault. Review red flag behavior so kids can be on the lookout for predatory actions online and anywhere.

Talk about peer pressure. Some kids with AirDrop can feel pressured to share things they’re not really comfortable with because the group is egging them on. Work on ways your kid can resist this pressure.

Make sure they use safe settings. It’s best to keep AirDrop off. But if that’s not doable, keep AirDrop on Contacts Only and advise kids to decline messages from people they don’t know.

The article goes on to walk you through how to turn on and off certain features and offer greater guidance. Be sure to read it.

And if you’re looking for more practical help and resources on raising kids in a tech-obsessed age, be sure to check out the course from Kirk Cameron called Engage.

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