Connecting your own device to another is incredibly handy – whether for sharing pictures or using someone else’s mobile data. But the corresponding functions also lead to problems, or they are misused by strangers.
Bluetooth connects two devices with each other via radio. This makes it possible to exchange data with each other without any cables at all. This is often used to listen to music via the smartphone with so-called Bluetooth headphones. Mobile speakers, smart speakers or smart toys can also be connected to smartphones and tablets via Bluetooth. Bluetooth can connect devices that are up to 10 meters apart.
The name Bluetooth means “Blue-tooth” and comes from a story about the Danish king Harald Blue-tooth. In 958 he had ensured a good connection between Denmark and Norway.
Bluetooth is also used for various applications or functions for wireless data exchange between devices. Apple devices offer the AirDrop service for this, which connects two or more devices via Bluetooth as soon as they are close to each other. At a distance of more than 10 meters, the AirDrop connection only works when both devices are on the same WLAN. If you want to send a photo, you have to open it in the gallery and click on the share icon (rectangle with arrow pointing up) below the photo. When a device is detected nearby, the AirDrop icon appears with a red number. When you tap on it, the corresponding devices are displayed and you can select to whom the photo should be sent. The destination device must acknowledge receipt of a file before it can be sent.
With other operating systems and device types, files can either be shared on both devices just by activating Bluetooth (in the settings under Networks/Wireless Connection), or there are dedicated apps for this, for example Nearby Share for Android.
Another wireless technology that many smartphones have integrated is called NFC. This stands for Near Field Communication (i.e. communication in the near environment). Data can also be sent via this – but by touching the devices to be connected or over smaller distances than with Bluetooth. This function is often used when the smartphone is used as a means of payment. For example, if a credit card is stored in the smartphone (via ApplePay, Google Pay, etc.), the smartphone is simply held up to the card reader when paying at the checkout and the payment is made. For small amounts, you don’t even have to enter a PIN.
The NFC function can also be used creatively, as our tutorial “Making your own radio play box” shows.
On Apple devices, the default setting is that “Only contacts” can share data via AirDrop. For this purpose, access to the user’s own contact list must be granted. In the settings, however, it is also possible to select sharing for “All” or to completely disable visibility. Passwords can also be shared with users of Apple devices via AirDrop. However, this only works if the other person is stored as a contact in the smartphone.
It is never possible to ensure one hundred percent that strangers do not tap data, such as the phone number or the e-mail address, unnoticed via Bluetooth, AirDrop and WLAN. With NFC, the probability is lower because the respective devices have to be very close to each other.
Especially with smart toys, make sure that the Bluetooth function is not permanently active so that strangers cannot gain digital access to the child’s room. Read more about this in our article Teddy and doll listen in – Smart toys in the children’s room.
If you’re on the go and look in your settings, you can see that other devices that are ready to receive are nearby. This means that your own device is also recognizable to others. Therefore, if possible, the device name should be changed so that privacy cannot be violated. Therefore, do not use a full plain name, e.g. Kai Müller’s iPhone, but rather a nickname or similar.
It should also be noted that some information is collected so that the service can be used. However, according to the service providers, this collected data should be encrypted during data transmission. In addition to the device name, this includes the user’s own contacts as well as usage information and performance data for analysis purposes.
At best, Bluetooth, AirDrop , etc. should be completely disabled and only enabled when the function is really needed. Also, don’t leave your payment information on your child’s smartphone. Then they can not be misused in case of possible loss of the device.
Talk to your child about the risks of these functions and go through the settings on the smartphone together.