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Cyberflashing – unwanted messages on the smartphone

3 minutes reading time
6-17 years
Social Media
Foto: unsplash.com/Yura Fresh

The cell phone vibrates, a message arrives. But the click on the notification contains an unpleasant surprise: instead of a message from the circle of friends, an obscene photo appears on the screen. When people send photos of their private parts to others without consent, it’s called cyberflashing. For children and young people in particular, this can be very unpleasant or even disturbing.

Cyberflashing – who, how and especially why?

New media offerings and technical possibilities make many things easier in communication. Sometimes, however, they also open the door to unpleasant phenomena. Cyberflashing is one such.

Mostly it is men who photograph their private parts and send the resulting photos – so-called “dickpics” – to women. Sometimes these pictures are sent to your own contacts via Messenger without being asked. More often, however, senders use social networks or dating apps to send their images, directing them at people they barely know or don’t know at all.

The problem has been exacerbated by functions such as AirDrop: This allows content to be sent to other devices in the vicinity – without the number or a clear name being displayed. So women can receive pictures from unknown and do not even know from whom. Why especially men send such pictures is not entirely clear. It could be a form of exhibitionism or a desire to initiate a sexual relationship or to get similar images back.

What can parents do against cyberflashing?

For those affected, receiving an unwanted dick pic is usually something unpleasant. Depending on the situation, the image can only annoy, disgust, disturb or traumatize – especially if it hits teenagers and young adults, or happens in a situation where others can still see the display. Talk openly and objectively with your child about the phenomenon of cyberflashing. If your child can be confident that he or she can discuss such issues with you, he or she will approach you if an incident should occur.

Receiving snapshots of your private parts without being asked is not only unpleasant – it is also punishable for the person sending them. According to paragraph 184 in the Penal Code, cyberflashing falls under the “distribution of pornographic writings”. This is not a trivial offense, but a criminal offense and can result in up to one year imprisonment or a fine. If you or your child receives a Dickpic, you should fight back. You can report the incident to the nearest police station. There are also online portals that make it quick and easy to advertise, such as the website dickstinction.com. If you suspect that your child is sending such pictures themselves, it is imperative that you discuss this seriously. It is best to advise your child of the possible consequences and the unpleasant situation for the recipient before it even happens. Therefore, stay in touch about your child’s media use!

To avoid receiving unwanted images, it is recommended that you check the security settings on your smartphone thoroughly with your child. AirDrop, as well as Bluetooth, is best turned off when your child is in a public space.

Your child should not even accept unexpected messages from unknown people. Some messengers, such as Signal, also offer settings that require people who are not yet in the phonebook to first make a contact request before they are allowed to send anything.

You can find help and advice here:

  • Extensive information on cyberflashing is available on the Deutsche Welle website.
  • HateAid explains exactly how to protect yourself or take action against cyberflashing and offers advice.
  • Further help pages for children and young people and for parents on the subject of sexual harassment online are listed in our article on cybergrooming.

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