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Phone to Phone Filesharing in Schools: The Risks of Airdrop and Nearby Share

2022-11-28T15:54:07+00:00

Last Updated on 28th November 2022

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Airdrop Logo

What is Airdrop?

  • Airdrop is a feature available on iPhones and Mac computers (iOS 7, iPadOS 13, OS X 10.10, or later required)
  • It lets physically close Mac and iOS devices share files, photos, websites etc.
  • There are no size limits on files.
  • It uses Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to transmit the files.
  • Airdrop automatically detects nearby supported devices within a maximum distance of 30 feet.
  • When a receiver of content is selected, they will be notified and offered the option to accept or decline the incoming file.
Nearby Share logo

What is Nearby Share?

  • Nearby Share is available on Android 6.0+ phones.
  • Like Airdrop, it allows users to instantly share files, links and pictures with people around them.
  • It also works through Bluetooth or WiFi.
  • When Nearby Share is turned on, a list of devices available within sharing proximity is visible.
  • When a receiver of content is selected, they will be notified and offered the option to accept or decline the incoming file.

What Are the Risks of Airdrop and Nearby Share?

  • Being exposed to age-inappropriate sexualised and/or violent content.
  • Photo sharing as a form of cyberbullying, with the person featured in the image being the target.
  • The sharing of self-generated sexual imagery, with or without the permission of the original image/video creator.
  • Images of teachers or other staff members shared as part of teacher targeted bullying, including ‘upskirting’ images (the practice of taking an illegal photo of someone’s genitals or genital area, without consent).

When considering the risks of file sharing features, schools should consider the impact that harmful images and content can have on children and young people. Viewing distressing content could have a long-lasting negative impact.

What Can Schools Do About the Risks of Airdrop and Nearby Share?

Schools should ensure they have effective mobile phone policies and that they are being enforced adequately. Although there is no legal blanket ban on mobile phone usage in schools, schools should consider a ‘phones out of sight’ policy during the school day.

Guidance for removing phones from pupils varies regionally.

“Where the person conducting the search finds an electronic device that is prohibited by the school rules or that they reasonably suspect has been, or is likely to be, used to commit an offence or cause personal injury or damage to property, they may examine any data or files on the device where there is a good reason to do so.”

Schools should have:

  • Agreed consequences and sanctions for the misuse of mobile phones that are integrated with each school’s existing policies and approaches to managing relationships and behaviour.
  • Clear procedures for confiscation and return of mobile devices.
According to National Education Union, school staff can seize any prohibited item found as a result of a search. They can also seize any item which they consider harmful or detrimental to school discipline.
Schools have the legal right to impose reasonable sanctions if a pupil misbehaves, confiscating something belonging to a child if it’s inappropriate for school (for example, a mobile phone other device.)
Schools in the Isle of Man create their own specific guidelines for confiscating devices. See individual school policies for more information.

Schools can also:

  • Make sure pupils know how to hide their device on Airdrop and Nearby Share, decline an incoming image and turn off Bluetooth. See our Safety Centre and Safety Cards for more information on how to do this.
  • Avoid approaching the subject directly: by naming these features directly, you may be introducing something new and encouraging their curiosity. If pupils are already curious, discuss the safety risks of unwanted use.
  • Ensure you have policies in place so school staff know what to do when self-generated sexual imagery is shared, teacher targeted bullying occurs or when a pupil is sharing inappropriate materials.
Airdrop Safety Card
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Nearby Share Safety Card
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Visit our Safeguarding Hub to view and download more Safety Cards on a range of platforms ranging from Social Media to Gaming.
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What Should a Child or Young Person Do When They Receive a Harmful Image?

If a child or young person tells you they have received harmful content through a file sharing feature like Airdrop or Nearby Share, remind them to:

STOP

what they’re doing and turn off their screen or shut down their device

Breathe

pause and stay calm

THINK

try not to focus on what they saw in great detail

TALK

engage them in conversation in a natural way and reassure them that you are there to support and help them

Make sure that children and young people know who they can talk to if they see something that upsets or distresses them. Use our Trusted Adult resources.

If a child or young person has lost control of a nude image of themselves, they can use Childline and the IWF’s online tool. You can access this here.

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