Air Drop, Nearby Share, & Self Share: What Parents & Educators Need to Know About Student Device Dangers

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February 2, 2022

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This course will help VIP members learn

  • Why file sharing is dangerous for any device user, especially students
  • How to check if file sharing is open to strangers on all your family’s devices today
  • Real-world examples of file sharing disrupting schools and family activities
  • What to tell your students about file-sharing practices and what to do if they get an unwanted file shared to their device

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Table of Contents

File sharing between mobile devices can be useful for family and friends to exchange photos, videos, documents, and other files easily from peer-to-peer (P2P).  

However, the Apple AirDrop, Android Nearby Share, and the Chrome OS Self Share are often left open for anyone in a similar location to share anything with another user: known as cyber flashing. Learn how to find these features on Apple, Android, or Chrome OS devices, how to find settings to block strangers, and how to talk with students about the appropriate uses of these features or what to do if they receive unwanted files from an unknown contact.

Parent and educator training video

Listen to the video here:

What is file sharing (AirDrop/Nearby Share)?

  • File sharing allows users to share files with other device users who are physically close to them without having to use email, text, or a cloud system
  • Users don’t have to know other users’ phone numbers, screen names, etc. to send the files in certain settings!
  • Users can share a variety of file types:
  • ~Photos
  • ~Videos
  • ~Notes
  • ~Audio files
  • ~Bookmarks
  • ~Playlists
  • ~Contact information
  • ~Locations
  • ~Documents
  • ~And more!
  • Apple products have the AirDrop feature 
  • Android products have the Nearby Share feature 
  • Chromebooks may have Nearby Share/Self Share options with similar options to share with other Chrome operating systems (or Google Chrome browser)
  • Users can only send files to those with the same operating system (ie AirDrop to AirDrop, Nearby Share to NearbyShare)
  • The devices use different technology (Near Field Communication, Bluetooth, and/or WiFi) to make the connections

AirDrop & Nearby Share dangers in the news

The anonymity of AirDrop to share to a large group has the unintended consequence of being a vehicle for cyberbullying, which is increasing in schools.

Net Nanny

Students at Garden City High School went on lockdown for hours after a threat to do harm was sent to a student via Apple's AirDrop… police [did] a digital dump on a cellphone and [looked] at seating charts and surveillance video to see if they [could] identify the person who sent the threat.

WXYZ Detroit

[A] United Airlines flight was prepping to leave the gate when several passengers inexplicably received a photo of a gun via their smartphones. After those passengers notified flight attendants, the pilot announced a “threat on board”... That initiated a three-hour delay, while officials evacuated the plane, rescreened all the passengers and searched the aircraft… The culprit was a passenger who had disseminated an image of a replica firearm that closely resembles a traditional firearm.


[S]ix students, ranging from 15 to 16 years of age, received the graphic content…The content was described by the students as 'gross, disgusting, and not safe for work.

Fox 10 Phoenix

Why should parents & educators care?

Risks of file-sharing technology

What can parents & educators do?

  • Check your device’s file-sharing settings (see detailed directions below for Apple, Android, and Chrome OS)
  • Consider turning Bluetooth and WiFi off on any of your devices when you don’t need to be connected to them
  • Educators, check with your school or district technology agreements or requirements about file-sharing settings on school-owned devices
  • (The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology)

How to find Apple’s AirDrop settings

AirDrop logo
  1. Tap “Settings” on the Apple device and tap “General”
  2. Tap “AirDrop”
  3. Select “Receiving Off” or “Contacts Only” to restrict who can send files to your device

How to find Android’s Nearby Share settings

Settings logo on Android
  1. Tap “Settings” for your device
  2. Scroll down the menu and tap “Google” 
  3. Scroll down and tap “Devices & sharing”
  4. Tap “Nearby Share”
  5. Slide “Use nearby share” to the off (gray) position

How to find Nearby Share on Chrome OS (and Self Share) settings

  • Some schools/districts have pre-set your students’ school-provided devices to block file sharing, however, we recommend checking for yourself with each new school year or device your student is using
  • For a school device: If sharing is on and the option is managed by an administrator to turn it off, consider talking with your school’s administration or technology department about why they leave this on and the potential risks associated with the feature
  •  On a Chromebook, tap on the time in the lower right corner and select “Settings”
  1. Tap “Connected Devices” on the left menu
  2. Move the slider to the off (or grey) position for both Android phone and Nearby Share

What should users do if they get an unexpected or unknown file shared on their device?

  • Prepare students in advance to know what to do if they ever get any unknown file shared with them on their device
  • Teach students to “Decline” or “Cancel” the file transfer as soon as possible and follow-up with turning off sharing features on their device
  • Remind students to report suspicious contacts or files shared with them to a parent, teacher, or responsible adult, even if they are worried about getting in trouble for having sharing open

More resources for parents, students, & educators

MomTalk podcast with Beth & Andrea discussing file sharing tips


File-sharing can be useful for professionals working together but can leave any device user, especially students, vulnerable to seeing or receiving inappropriate content. Taking a few minutes to check all devices in your family or classroom for these settings and teaching students what to do if they do receive unwanted files can reduce the impacts of anyone trying to create chaos.

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