Why are Teens Airdropping Memes?

Another day, another viral trend. You may have recently heard of or participated in AirDropping images to strangers around you whenever you’re in public.

 AirDropping is a feature on Apple products that allows users to easily share images and files with other Apple users nearby without needing to attach them in a text or email. All you need is to be relatively physically close, have your Bluetooth or WiFi on, and with a simple tap, you can send whatever you want to whoever also has AirDrop on.

This may sound strange if it’s not something you haven’t heard of. It can be a bit of a game for adolescents though, with someone sending them a meme, them sending a similar one back, and suddenly there’s an exchange going on to see who has the most powerful, yet silly image. Adolescents can also compete with others around them to see how many of these chains you can get going on at once. At its best, it can be reassuring – people can sometimes AirDrop positive images and things about self-love, or they aim to AirDrop content that they hope will make the other person laugh.  It’s a way to socialize on a minimal, harmless level with their peers around you and can be a fun thing to do to kill time while waiting for an event to start.

But while it may be lighthearted and fun for the most part, there are still several risks. For example, you have to agree to receive the files and save them to your device, but you can still what the content is when it pops up. This could potentially contain NSFW or triggering content (even if the content isn’t “frightening” itself, everyone can be sensitive to different things) and be upsetting to see, especially in public. It can even feel overwhelming and can possibly cause feelings of anxiety, especially in spaces where there are tons of people (concerts are one the most popular places where AirDropping occurs). There might be an element of social anxiety involved too, since someone you most likely don’t know is technically contacting you, and you may not know how to react, feel comfortable accepting the image, or are afraid of responding.

There are ways to avoid the activity if you think this is inappropriate, dangerous, or think it may be a trigger for stress. For one thing, people are not participating at all if they have an Android device. Those who have an Apple device can also disable it completely. If you use AirDrop for other things (for example, sharing photos with friends that you took of them), you can limit AirDrop to just your contacts. Letting your child know about these features can help them if it’s something that may be causing them stress.

Have you ever heard of AirDropping memes? Would you feel comfortable with your child having AirDrop turned on?

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