What is Twitch and is it safe for children to be on it?
It feels like there’s a new social media or gaming platform coming out every week for parents to stress about these days, and Twitch has surged in popularity over recent years.
It’s an online live video streaming service with a big focus around gaming – where gamers, performers and content creators can livestream to fans as they play a game or perform. It allows for instant access to content and loads of adults and kids alike love it.
“Twitch is a live streaming platform, used primarily by gamers. It usually involves watching either expert or particularly entertaining gamers play or compete in video games,” explains Jamie Akhtar, CEO of CyberSmart (cybersmart.co.uk).
“It’s so popular with kids because it’s dominated by many of the most popular games, such as Fortnite and League Of Legends.”
According to data from Twitchtracker, in 2021, Twitch had an average of 2.78 million concurrent viewers, and a whopping 22.8 billion hours of content was consumed on the platform. Plus, nine million users streamed on the platform once a month.
Streaming is big business too, and some Twitch creators are making impressive sums sharing content on the platform.
So, what might parents and carers need to know when it comes to children being on Twitch?
What age range is Twitch OK for?
The age range Twitch is appropriate for is very dependent on the type of content being consumed. However, the platform does require users to be aged 13 and above in order to create an account.
“Although Twitch doesn’t allow violent or offensive content from its streamers, some of the games being played might not be suitable for younger children. It’s also worth bearing in mind that the platform uses live streaming, so much like live television, anything can happen. And it’s very difficult for Twitch to control this,” says Akhtar.
“Twitch also has a chat function running alongside streams,” he adds. “Sometimes chats are restricted to certain users, such as followers or subscribers of the specific streamer. But even when you can’t participate, you can see what others are posting. So your child may see inappropriate content this way.”
Are there parental controls on Twitch?
Akhtar says: “You can apply search filters for categories like Educational and Family Friendly to block mature content. Although it’s worth noting that the streamers themselves are responsible for adding these tags to their content, so it’s not a catch-all solution.
“You can also hide the chat function and set rules for who’s allowed to contact you.”
Ultimately, any shared online platform potentially comes with risks for younger users, so it’s a good idea to keep an open dialogue about it with your child.
“The most important thing is to have honest and open conversations with your children about Twitch. Make it clear that if there’s anything they’re unsure about, or that makes them feel uncomfortable, they can talk to you about it,” says Akhtar.
“It’s also worth checking in with them on what they’re watching on the platform regularly. This doesn’t have to be as draconian as it sounds, simply frame it as being interested in their interests.”
If your child is eager to stream content themselves, it is important to know who is potentially seeing this.
“A key safety point – for those who want to live stream, you’re given a streaming key – if you’re planning on live streaming, make sure you protect this to prevent others accessing it. Do not share this with anyone,” says Michael Tanaka, chief commercial officer at MIRACL (miracl.com).
Does Twitch cost money?
It can do, yes. Again, this is where the settings become important – as well as conversations with your child around acceptable boundaries and usage.
Akhtar says: “Many streamers do solicit donations and paid subscriptions to their channel, and some do push Twitch’s content boundaries while doing it. This isn’t a problem in itself, but it could prove so if your child has access to money.”
What are the positives of Twitch?
Despite the importance of being aware of online safety, a healthy relationship with Twitch can have its benefits too.
“At its best, Twitch is great for building a sense of community around popular video games. Gaming no longer has to be a solitary bedroom pursuit and instead can be part of a flourishing – and broadly safe – online community,” says Akhtar.
If you are concerned your child is spending too much time on Twitch, open up a conversation with them around this. If necessary, screen time restrictions can be set up via their device.
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