Shut It Off
First, you can use the iPhone parental controls to shut down AirDrop. Just go to Settings, then General, then AirDrop on any iPhone or iPad, and turn it off. Then lock down the iPhone with a parental control app. While you’re at it, you should do the same to your phone. Cruelty and misuse aren’t limited to teenagers, either. If your teen uses a Mac laptop, it will be a little more elaborate, since MacOS defaults to having AirDrop on. Go to the Applications folder, then Utilities, then Terminal. Enter this into the window:
defaults write com.apple.NetworkBrowser DisableAirDrop -bool YES
Hit enter, and then log out of the Mac. Once you log back it, it won’t turn on unless you consent to it. If you or your teen need it for some reason, then you should configure the iPhone parental controls to only allow contacts and approved people to send files.
If you don’t want to start with the parental controls, then start with education. Teens should already know not to accept files from strangers, and fortunately, AirDrop needs your permission before it will download a file. Sit your teens down and talk to them about the risks both to their devices and themselves about AirDrop.
If you have to leave AirDrop enabled, you should also talk to them about what to do if somebody tries to send unwanted images and files to them at school or at work, beyond declining to accept them. They should know who to talk to, when to confront and when to speak to authority, and how to get help if they feel unsafe.
Use Parental Control Apps
Another useful tool is parental control apps, which can lock down various aspects of a phone on a schedule or just lock off certain apps and behaviors altogether. This can do far more than just control files that arrive on devices, and it may be useful in situations where either teens need unfettered use of their devices, such as school or internships, or simply that you need to break a bad habit. The other bad side of AirDrop is that it’s also a method of “swapping notes” in class, which admittedly isn’t as harmful as the worst-case scenario, but teens need to pay attention in class!
If you’re concerned about AirDrop, the internet, social networks, and other ways teens can experience the dark side of the internet, Screen Time can help, and you can try it for free.