The latest on live streaming

25 November 2019

TikTok, Yubo, Twitch, YouNow, Periscope, Instagram Live …….with the ever increasing popularity of live streaming apps and social networks amongst both children and young people, it’s important to understand how they work and the opportunities and risks they present.

Young person watching live streaming

Live streaming: what it is

Live streaming is the broadcasting of live "in the moment" video to an audience over the internet.  It isn’t moderated or censored and is often unrehearsed. Live streamers simply need an internet-enabled device and a platform (like TikTok) to broadcast on.

It can be fun for young people, providing many opportunities to develop their creativity and showcase their talents - and can be a great way for them to build confidence and develop their communication skills too. However, there are also risks associated with live streaming and engaging with other people’s broadcasts.

On live streaming sites, once content is broadcast nobody can watch it again – which can appeal to adults who are seeking to offend against young people and also make streamers quite reckless.  Young people can be exposed to mature content, including of a sexual and pornographic nature, and inappropriate contact from predators. 

The more serious risks of grooming have been highlighted by recent research:

  • An NSPCC survey (2018) found that, of those children and young people that have live streamed, 6% have received requests to change or remove their clothes.

  • Research by the IWF found that 98% of live streamed abuse was on largely private platforms, showing children aged 13 and under. The research found that Twitch was one of the most prevalent places where children reported being asked to send explicit material of themselves by adults, along with social media giants Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter.

Good to know 

  • Live streams can be broadcast publicly or privately, in one-on-one chats which cannot be viewed by others.

  • Apps and social networks such as TikTok, Yubo and Twitch are primarily live streaming platforms, while platforms like YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter offer live streaming functionality e.g. Twitter’s Periscope.
  • Children and young people can live stream anything: from dancing performances to sharing their views about a subject to providing tips and advice to other gamers as they play a particular game.
  • Young gamers, in particular, enjoy watching their favourite Youtubers and getting tips and advice on game play. Ninja, alongside the rapper Drake, smashed the record for the most simultaneous viewers to a single stream with 635,000 viewers on Twitch. A few weeks later he broke this record, with 667,000 viewers to a stream of him playing at an eSports event in Las Vegas.
  • In public live streams, viewers get involved by ‘liking’ videos and adding comments. • On some live streaming platforms, viewers can ‘gift’ live streamers. These ‘gifts’ can be converted into real money which can be spent online by the streamer

Twitch in brief

Young people flock to Amazon-owned Twitch, one of the world’s most popular live streaming services, to watch famous gamers play popular games (of any age rating) like Fortnite (PEGI 15) and Call of Duty (PEGI 18).  They can follow people or games and chat or message other Twitch members.

  • Officially, Twitch is not available to those under the age of 13; those aged between 13 and 18 require parental permission.

  • Twitch doesn’t offer any parental controls although Twitch streamers can enable content warnings on their streams if they feel they are inappropriate for younger viewers.

  • Every stream on Twitch has live-chat, meaning viewers can discuss and react to what they are seeing.

  • There are no chat filters but individual broadcasters can ban specific words and the bigger channels are more likely to be safer options in this respect. However, this is optional so young people on Twitch may still be exposed to inappropriate language and behaviour.

  • The Whisper function allows users In the same channel to chat privately

Parents should be wary of the ‘Whisper’ feature: keep an eye on this for any inappropriate messaging; chat sequences tend to stay logged for a few months. This feature can be turned off in the settings.

Useful resources

Thinkuknow provides a package of resources for 8-18 year olds focusing on live streaming and the risks to children and young people. Click here to visit their site to find out more.

"Some offenders use trickery to illicit indecent content.  They may suggest 'innocent' games that trick a child into taking their clothes off. Others use flattery....These tactics are used to try and manipulate and groom young people into engaging in sexual activity online"


Thinkuknow 2019

Points for parents

Explore together

  • Review apps, sites and games together to assess whether they’re suitable.  On Twitch, watch channels for 15-20 minutes, multiple times (at different times of the day), in order to judge their suitability.

Encourage healthy online habits

  • Talk about good practices, like thinking carefully about what is shared (“Should we share everything?”, “What shouldn’t we share?”), be positive and encouraging.
  • Remind them that private information and photos/videos of their body shouldn’t be shared and that privacy settings give options to control what is shared; location settings can be switched off.

Inappropriate users can be reported and blocked.

 …… apps that allow two-way communication and live streaming, present particular risks to children of being groomed.

Andy Burrows, Head of child safety online policy, NSPCC

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