Walking with your family through the crowded streets this December, you are all taking in the incredible festive atmosphere of Christmas, the shops and markets, enjoying the beautiful aroma of freshly cooked food for sale, the glow of the lights and smile on people’s faces passing by. You might all pause to laugh, as your child’s device suddenly starts to play “Here comes Santa Clause”, the chosen festive notification alert.
Suddenly your attention is drawn to the look of horror on your child face, as they unlock their phone only to discover someone has Air Dropped a sexualised image of an erect penis to their phone. Fear and anger quickly envelops you as you look around at the many faces passing. The dark realisation that somebody in this festive crowd, has just exposed your child to this image and is probably looking at you right now, watching your reaction and that of your child’s. The child has just become a victim of “Cyber Flashing”
This would be a horrific scene for anybody to experience. However it is happening, quite a lot in fact. Known by a rather sterile term “Cyber Flashing”, this new form of sexual deviant behaviour is growing in popularity. So much so, in New York authorities are introducing new legislation which would make this a punishable criminal offence with a fine of up to $1000. “Cyber Flashing” occurs on Apple devices by using the AirDrop tool which is designed to share content with other Apple owners over Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
The normalisation of sharing explicit images is gathering momentum all the time, and boundaries of acceptable and expected sexual consent are being pushed far beyond expectations. “Cyber Flashing” is form of sexual deviance that is more appropriately known as Exhibitionism, in layman’s terms a Flasher. There are generally three reasons people engage in this type of behaviour. Firstly they are sexually aroused by exposing themselves to others. Secondly the reaction of the unsuspecting victim adds to their own arousal and excitement. Incredibly, the third reason is an actual belief, or hope, the victim replicates the same back to the Flasher. What is of even more concern is this type of sexually deviant behaviour is that Exhibitionism can be a precursor to actual contact sexual offending.
For the last number of years we have consistently highlighted the dangers of Sexting, not only from the perspective of the harm it causes, when people have their images shared without permission to others, but from a child exploitation perspective and a legal one also. We have always held a very firm line, such online behaviour has the potential to develop in to a deviant sexual behaviour in some. Our fears for this occurring were based on solid research coming from countries where huge attempts were being made to curb the normalisation of Sexting.
In New York, people travelling on the Subway system are being targeted by this sexual predatory behaviour. Attempts are being made to curb it. ‘Just like if you get on the train and flash someone, you’ll be arrested,’ council member Donovan Richards, who co-sponsors the new bill alongside five others, told Wired. ‘You should be held to the same standard, and the law should be applied to you equally.’ It was with some disbelief we were recently told about this happening to women in bars and nite clubs also. Dropping “Dick Pic’s” on unsuspecting victims, appears to be far more common that we could have imagined.
Unfortunately, Ireland is once again arriving very late to this party. Many of those who are tasked to legislate in an attempt to prevent, or curb this activity are ill prepared for these type of crimes. This is a world you need to almost live in order to fully comprehend the interactions people are having with each other. The harsh reality for this older generation is sadly, many just don’t get it or the scale of the problem. Also, the increasing number of digital related crimes, are occurring at a rate which is far outpacing the ability to deal with these types of crime. which require trained specialists to examine the devices
For parents themselves and those who have decided to give their child an Apple device, it is important that the Air Drop tool is switched off. There are three settings for this tool, go to SETTINGS – GENERAL – AirDrop, you will be given three options Receiving Off , Contacts Only and Everyone. Use the Receiving Off option, this will prevent anyone from being able to transfer the images to the device. We would also like to remind parents to use the IOS12 Parental Control features available now on all Apple devices updated to IOS12. You can also install Google Family Link.
If your child has a device, you as a parent are responsible for their safety while they use it. Every single device a child has access to, needs to have Parental Control’s enabled for their safety. It is also incredibly important to report any sexualized image or a message from someone who might request an image, sent to your device or your child’s device. By not reporting this to the authorities, you are essentially allowing the sexual predator to continue to walk among us and target more people and potentially, children. Authorities can only deal with such an individual if they are made aware of them.