Keep your child safe from cyber-flashing

What is it?

Cyber-flashing is when a stranger sends an explicit picture, uninvited, to your phone via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. It’s sexual harassment.

It’s most likely to happen on public transport or in crowded places.

The file-sharing app AirDrop for iPhone and iPads is most commonly associated with cyberflashing, but there are lots of different file-sharing apps out there.

With AirDrop, it’s easy for anyone to send you images. The automatic preview feature means you also see images without actually opening them.

3 steps to keep your child safe

1. Restrict who can send files to your child’s phone

Most file-sharing apps allow users to restrict who can send files to them by Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Find out which apps your child uses, then make sure your child knows how to use these settings.

For AirDrop on iPhones:

  • Open ‘Control Centre’ (swipe down from the upper-right corner or up from the bottom of the screen, depending on the model)
  • Press firmly on the network settings card in the upper-left corner. This will open more connectivity controls
  • Tap and hold the AirDrop icon
  • Select ‘Contacts Only’, or ‘Receiving Off’ (to not receive AirDrop requests)

Or, do this by going to Settings > General > AirDrop.

Some of the other most popular file-transfer apps include:

  • Google Drive
  • Dropbox
  • Microsoft OneDrive 
  • AirDroid
  • Zapya

Make sure your child knows to only accept files from people they know.

2. Turn off Bluetooth when not using it

Otherwise, it’s easy for strangers nearby to send images to your child’s phone.

To do this on iPhone, open ‘Control Centre’ (see above), then tap the Bluetooth icon (it looks like a ‘B’). The icon dims when it’s off.

On Android, swipe down from the top (you might need to do this twice or scroll across). Then tap the Bluetooth ‘B’ icon to turn it off. It’ll be grey when Bluetooth is off.

3. Make sure your child knows what to do if it happens to them

If your child doesn’t feel in immediate danger, they should take a screenshot and report the incident to the police using the non-emergency numbers:

  • If it happens on public transport, text 61016 or call 0800 40 50 40
  • If it happens anywhere else, call 101

If your child feels scared or in immediate danger, they should call 999. They should also move to a safe place – find someone in authority to talk to like platform staff, a security guard or a shop manager.

If it happens in school, your child should talk to a trusted adult immediately.


How to use AirDrop on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, Apple

Use Bluetooth and Wi-Fi in Control Centre, Apple

What is cyber-flashing?, Ask the Police

61016: our non-emergency text number, British Transport Police

Children cheering