You may have heard of the popular online streaming platform, Twitch. It’s a hub for video gamers, “nerd culture,” and a place where user-created content reigns supreme. So, how can you know if Twitch is right for your kid, and what can you do to keep them safe if they join? Here’s what every parent should know:
What is Twitch and how does it work?
Twitch was created in 2011 with the primary goal of creating a community for video game live streaming. The majority of Twitch streams are people playing video games live, with chat commentary happening in real-time. Another large part of the site is e-sports competitions, where professional and amateur video gamers compete in multiplayer games. But that’s not all, and since content is user-generated, there are also many live streams that are not about video games. You can find live music, woodworking demos, live streams of events like Comic Con and much more. Twitch features private messaging, as well as “whispering” on public chat threads, which sends private messages to users. You can sign up to watch streams for free, but the site is monetized through subscriptions, which means in order to stream content, your account will need a payment method. One positive for parents: Twitch can be a useful place to preview video games before buying them for your kids.
Is Twitch safe for kids?
Like all open platforms, Twitch comes with its risks. According to their Terms of Service, Twitch is a 13+ platform, and you need parental consent for 13- to 18-year-olds to view or stream their own content. But these safety features are only decided by entering a date of birth, so it’s easy for kids to navigate around them. Twitch is owned by Amazon and has Community Guidelines, however, due to the spontaneous nature of live streams, it is difficult to filter content as it happens live. On popular live streams, where thousands of users are watching at the same time, it can be difficult to moderate the live chat, and sometimes hate speech or cyberbullying goes unchecked.
How can parents make Twitch safer?
If your child is using Twitch, there are a few things you can do to make the platform safer for them:
- If you approve an account for your kid, under “Settings,” click Security and Privacy, and then block “whispers” from strangers. (A “whisper” is essentially like a DM that happens in a public chat.)
- Be clear with your children about which streams they should be watching. Mature video games (like Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto) are streamed alongside more kid-friendly games like Mario Kart.
- Channels that are “inappropriate for younger audiences” will show a content warning to users under 18. Mature games can feature violence, sexuality and language not appropriate for kids.
Even if the video game is kid-appropriate, the streamer may not be. No matter the game, go through and view the streamer’s channel to make sure it’s a good fit for your child. Twitch monitors your user activities to create recommendations for other channels to watch. You can go through and click “not interested” on mature content or unfit streamers so that your kid’s recommended channels are better curated for them.
Twitch can be a great place for kids to watch their favorite video games being played, for parents to preview games they might like to buy—or a place to check out your favorite streamer. But as a live streaming platform, Twitch carries some risks for younger users. Parents should take the 13+ age restriction seriously, and communicate with kids about what content is best for them to view, and what to do if they come in contact with strangers.
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