Supporting victims of cyberflashing and giving preventative advice.
of girls aged 12-18 have been sent unsolicited nude images of boys or men*
‘Cyberflashing’ is where somebody digitally sends sexual images or pornography to an unsuspecting person. Due to the nature of channels used to send these images, the victim will not know they have been cyberflashed until they have actively opened the notification or gone into the app.
AirDrop is a file and image sharing app, bespoke for Apple devices, which enables users to drop content for nearby devices to accept or reject. Cyberflashing most commonly occurs using Apple AirDrop, as strangers can send images to a victim’s phone without having their details saved. Cyberflashing can also occur through file sharing apps and social media, especially if the perpetrator has the victim’s details.
Best practices for parents and carers (preventative):
Discuss boundaries and encourage open communication
Tell your child that their boundaries are valid and that if anything breaks those boundaries – whether strangers inside or outside of school; or even close friends or partners – then they should speak to you or a trusted adult about it straight away. Make sure that they know you will support them without judgement no matter what happens.
Check your child’s AirDrop settings
If your child has an iPhone, check their AirDrop settings with them (Settings > General > AirDrop) and, if necessary, take a look at their privacy settings. The default is set to “Everyone”, meaning anyone nearby can send unsolicited photos straight to your child’s phone. We recommend switching to “Contacts Only” so that only friends can send photos, or even “Receiving Off” if you and your child decide this is the safest option for them.
Establish safety features of other apps
Cyberflashing still occurs through social media and file sharing apps when privacy and safety features have not been enabled. Look through your child’s apps with them and set privacy settings to “friends only”; be selective about who can follow them or they can follow. We recommend using our partner Childnet’s “My Life Online” conversation guide to facilitate conversation and establish rules.
Best practices for parents and carers (if your child is a victim of cyberflashing):
Keep calm and praise them for approaching you
It can be very difficult for a child to speak up about things which they perhaps don’t fully know about or which they may find embarrassing. They may have gone through a lot of anxiety and worry to bring it up with you, so make sure you insist that they have done the right thing and that none of it is their fault.
Assess the situation and report
If this has happened at school, you may want to contact your child’s school, as their safeguarding policies will allow them to escalate and deal with the situation. If this has happened with a perpetrator outside of school, in public, it can still be worthwhile to seek support from the school, or you may want to consider calling the local police.
Change your child’s phone settings
If your child has an iPhone, check their AirDrop settings with them (Settings > General > AirDrop) and switch the default from “Everyone” to “Receiving Off”, or at least “Contacts Only”.
Seek help from the professionals
Make sure your child is aware of the support available for victims.
Provided by the UK Safer Internet Centre and operated by SWGfL, Report Harmful Content is a national reporting centre that has been designed to assist anyone in reporting harmful content online, as well as offering guidance and mediatory support to victims.
The Mix is a charity which provides free, confidential support for young people under 25 via online, social and mobile.
How to teach young people about cyberflashing
Talk about healthy relationships and consent
Let your pupils know that boundaries are subjective and personal; other people’s opinions should be respected. Empowering them to take action if they are being pressured will help to build their confidence.
Have an open conversation
Allowing for discussion and healthy debate in the classroom is essential in gauging the variety of your pupils’ opinions, and offers a chance for you as an adult to mediate conversation.
Discussing problematic online sexual behaviour can be difficult to teach with younger age groups, so using toolkits and resources which will support your sessions. These resources can also help you to create a supportive environment for your students to discuss issues such as cyberbullying.
Our partner Childnet has plenty of resources for parents, carers, teachers and professionals working in education.
For parents and carers
Online Sexual Harassment Advice Leaflets
Advice leaflets, a short film and further information for parents and carers about online sexual harassment amongst young people.
For teachers and professionals
Step Up, Speak Up
A resource with a similar aim, but is instead designed for use with 13-17 year olds.
Guidance for teachers
Supporting children who display harmful sexual behaviour online, including a “Moving Forward Plan”.
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