Should your children be on YouTube and Twitch?
Among the many features of modern PC or video console gaming is the ability for players to record their gameplay and upload it to YouTube, or even livestream it to a watching global audience on services like Twitch. While a few ambitious youngsters are already making small fortunes from advertising revenue by showing off their construction skills on titles like the block-building game Minecraft, or demonstrating their prowess at strategy or fantasy battle games like Starcraft or Hearthstone, most just do it to connect with friends or online gaming contacts.
Ensure children are aware of the risks
Services like Twitch and YouTube have rules stating that users between the ages of 13 and 18 should be monitored by a responsible adult. However, once a child has signed up, which they can do by lying about their age or bypassing any consent messages, there is little to stop them playing without an adult noticing. When giving a youngster access to a gaming PC, PlayStation or Xbox console, adults should monitor the initial setup process and help them create any accounts they need, explaining any rules that they must follow.
If you don’t want your child to use these services then there are applications or settings you can use to block them. If you decide to let your child try them out, before letting them use any service explain what the risks are. Most likely, some people may use inappropriate language or offensive terms during their play. You can teach your child to ban these people from their streams. There is also the small risk that older viewers might try to learn more about the child and where they live, all of which should be reported to the service being used, and the child should definitely be urged to tell a parent.
Of course, other people may also be concerned about your child’s behaviour. Some youngsters are busy demonstrating their skills at age-inappropriate titles like Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, Resident Evil and other 16 or 18-rated games. While a few parents let primary school age children play these adult-only titles, it is fair to expect that concerned adults may report older children who are streaming themselves playing online. That could result in the child being banned from a service, or at worst their school or social services being contacted, if their behaviour seems truly inappropriate or could be considered as putting their friends at risk by someone who knows the child. Since most children have their friends as online contacts, the chance of another parent seeing what they are up to is pretty high.
Keep monitoring the situation
The parent should take time to monitor their child’s YouTube videos and Twitch sessions, which they can do from a smartphone app, to check from time to time that there is no inappropriate behaviour from their youngster or from anyone in the audience. The huge majority of the millions of hours of monthly streamed or uploaded footage passes off without incident, but checking for rude or suspicious messages can help protect the child and reassure adults that they are good digital citizens.
Reaching out to a wider audience can help boost a child’s confidence, and get them interested in new scenes and communities, but as with anything online, some sensible precautions and monitoring are required.