I recently downloaded the app to gain first-hand experience. After creating a username and password, I was prompted to specify my interests – be it games or categories such as strategy, puzzle solving, IRL (in real life) and music. I picked a few games and categories that I’ve heard kids talk about lately.
Within minutes of connecting I was exposed to vulgar language, violence, and sexually suggestive content and witnessed cyberbullying. I entered a chat room and instantly felt overwhelmed. There was so much going on I didn’t know where to look or how to react.
Here are some things to know about Twitch and tips for keeping your kids safe:
- Age, consent and open dialogue: users have to be 13 or older to create an account, however younger kids routinely tell us that they use the service. Talk to your kids about the importance of asking for permission before using a new app or social media platform.
- Content: users are likely to see (or hear) swear words and mean behaviour. Some channels are moderated, but the volume of comments is difficult to keep up with, and there is no delay on audio/video. Users may also be exposed to games that are violent in nature (e.g. Call of Duty) and other mature content. Spend time researching the streamers that your children wish to follow and make sure the content is age appropriate. Remind your kids to talk to you if they see or hear something that makes them uncomfortable.
- Cost: while Twitch is a free service, users can subscribe for a monthly fee in exchange for benefits (see the next point). They can also make financial donations to streamers in exchange for specific content e.g. donations in exchange for live streaming of someone exercising in revealing clothing or drinking alcohol. Again, given the mature content, have conversations with your children about what online behaviour is acceptable. Remind them that they say and do online makes up their digital footprint.
- Following vs. Subscribing: Like YouTube or Twitter, users can follow a channel on Twitch for free. Users can also subscribe to a channel, for a cost, in exchange for benefits such as ad-free viewing, access to Emotes (emoji’s created by the streamer), badges, special alerts, chatrooms and more. Keep in mind that while ads may be removed, users could still be exposed to advertising as streamers often wear branded items and perform product reviews.
- Stranger danger and privacy: your child will be exposed to people they have never met face-to-face and could accidently share personal information while chatting. Remind them about the importance of protecting their privacy and being thoughtful about what they share and post online.
Keeping up with all that technology offers our children can be difficult and, if there’s one thing you can do to help keep them safe online, it’s participating in their digital lives and engaging in ongoing dialogue about it. Ask your kids what they enjoy doing online; what videos do they like to watch? What games do they like to play? If they are using Twitch, what kind of content are they consuming?