There is a feature in iOS that lets you share photos with other Apple users nearby. This feature is called AirDrop. It is a convenient way to quickly share content with friends and family members from one device to another. But as a fellow blogger recently found out, it can be used for more nefarious purposes.
You see, I was sitting on the train on my way home doing my usual perusing of social media. Was it Facebook? Twitter? Instagram? All three simultaneously? Perhaps, but I don’t remember. What I DO remember is my phone making an alert sound – one I had never heard before – and a photo of your genitalia popping up ON MY SCREEN IN FULL VIEW. Wow! To say I was not expecting that is quite an understatement. I normally do not receive photos like this at 7pm while sitting next to strangers on my commute home.
You can read the rest of Allison’s experience here – it’s a very funny account of the situation! But it’s also a bit alarming to learn that a nude photo could pop up on your screen without warning. Upon further review, Allison realized that the picture was sent using AirDrop.
Luckily there are a few ways to prevent complete strangers from sending photos to you – or your kids!
How AirDrop works
AirDrop will only work in certain situations:
- Both sender and recipient are using a recent model iPhone, iPad or iPod touch running iOS7 or iOS8.
- The sender and recipient have to be within about 30 feet of each other. So, if your child only uses an iPad at home, this shouldn’t be too great a concern. But if your teen rides the bus, subway, goes to the mall, movies, or generally spends any time in public near other people – keep reading.
- Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are enabled on both devices. NOTE: You don’t need to be connected to the same Wi-Fi network. In fact you don’t even have to be connected to anything for this to work. Using AirDrop creates a temporary direct Wi-Fi connection between the two devices. Here’s a more complete technical explanation.
In addition to photos, you can also send videos, websites and even your location using AirDrop. The recipient can either accept or decline the content.
How to prevent strangers from sending photos to your iOS device using AirDrop
There are three options for AirDrop sharing:
- Turn AirDrop off.
- Make your device discoverable to Contacts only (only people listed in your contacts who have a Valid Apple ID.)
- Make your device discoverable to Everyone.
You’ll change these settings from the Control Center. To do so, swipe up from the bottom of your device to reveal the Control Center. You’ll see your current AirDrop setting. If you see AirDrop: Everyone, click on the setting to reveal the choices. Change to either Off or Contacts Only.
Now what if you want to prevent your child from changing this setting? You can’t restrict AirDrop to Contacts Only. The only way to lock AirDrop is to turn it off completely.
How to completely disable AirDrop
1. From Settings, go to General > Restrictions.
2. If you’ve already set up restrictions, you’ll be prompted for the passcode. If not, choose Enable Restrictions and enter a passcode. Be sure to use a 4-digit passcode that you will remember and your kids will not guess.
3. Turn off AirDrop.
I’m so glad I read Allison’s post. While a very funny account, I would hate to think about the shock my teen daughter would receive if something like that happened to her! And if you’re wondering if teens know about this? Oh yeah:
Of course AirDrop is not just used for sexting. Just like text messages and apps like Snapchat, most of the time teens are sending funny pictures and selfies. The important difference with AirDrop is that no contact information – username, phone number or e-mail address – is needed.
Check your iDevices and those of your kids to make sure AirDrop sharing is only between friends and family members listed in Contacts and not with anonymous strangers!
More about AirDrop