The various social media platforms that have fascinated children include Pull outa live streaming service that is reportedly more than attracting 30 million people every day. Fiona Dubrosa, visiting researcher at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New York City, says she has used Twitch “as a way to connect with friends” during the pandemic and sees it as a great tool for “community building” among people with similar interests. However, she tells Yahoo Life that while using the platform she saw “a very young streamer” and decided to dig deeper.
“It piqued my interest in understanding the landscape of Twitch and the potential dangers it could pose to pediatric populations,” says Dubrosa.
Dubrosa’s results Research are alarming. In a study of 100 underage Twitch streamers, she and her colleagues found that minors – mainly 17 and under, although some were under 13 – disclosed their name 47% of the time, provided their location 50% of the time, shared their schedules 38% of the time, and provided other personal information 11% of the time. Specifically, this personal data included streamers changing their outfits for viewers and mentioning specific places they frequently visited. It was also found that 37% of smaller streamers in the study allowed viewers to donate money to them.
As the study sheds new light on how young people use the app and how it could expose them to security risks, here’s what parents need to know about Twitch.
What is Twitch?
Twitch is a social media platform with some unique features. On Twitch, users livestream content and creators interact with viewers via chat. Providing financial donations to creators, including minors, is an important part of Twitch.
Almost all types of content can be streamed, such as cooking classes or live music. However, the most popular live streams on Twitch come from YouTubers playing video games while providing commentary.
What age is Twitch suitable for?
According to Twitch’s Terms of Service, no one under the age of 13 should use the platform. However, a review from Common Sense Media describes it as more suitable for people aged 15 and over.
According to the co-author of the study Dr. Ruth Milanaika pediatric developmental behavioral specialist at Northwell Health, youth ages 13 to 17 can safely use the service with “varying levels of adult supervision.”
What are the dangers of using Twitch?
For young people, Twitch presents many of the same safety concerns as other social media platforms. These include “predatory behavior, inappropriate content, the lack of safer and more accurate age verification” and the potential for harm to mental health, it says Laura Ordonezsenior editor and head of digital content and curation at Common Sense Media.
Additionally, Twitch does not require registration to view content. “This poses a particular danger for minors as they are watched and followed by many unknown, faceless people,” says Milanaik. She compares live streaming on Twitch to leaving a window wide open in your child’s room. “Viewers have the opportunity to observe the child as they spend time on the platform, asking questions and making suggestions that can be as innocent as turning right in a video game, but can be as suggestive as ‘Please switch “Your shirt.” She states. All of this happens in real time.
Another worrying feature of Twitch is how easy it is to funnel money to minors. “Financial incentives can lead minors to engage in risky or unpleasant behavior,” warns Milanaik. Dubrosa adds that “those with malicious intent” can “hide behind internet anonymity,” increasing “the potential for economic exploitation of children under the guise of financial support.”
While adults may be better able to assess the risks of using Twitch, teenagers are particularly at risk. That’s because they’re “naturally impulsive” and “don’t necessarily think before they act or consider the possible consequences of their behavior,” he says Traci Williams, a licensed psychologist who counsels families and children. Additionally, “teenagers’ ideas about privacy are often different than adults’,” she adds. “They often willingly share information about themselves that can jeopardize their safety.”
Ordoñez adds that teens often accidentally reveal personal information on Twitch because of a “false sense of security.” “They may just be sharing videos about their day, but geotags and contextual clues make it easy to find out where they are and how to get access to them,” Ordoñez explains. For example, a teenager might start a livestream without realizing that the name of their school or favorite restaurant is visible in the background.
Are there benefits to using Twitch?
Despite the risks that come with using the platform, experts say there can be benefits to using Twitch. “Twitch can provide a sense of community and foster friendships between people with similar interests,” says Milanaik. It can also be “a great way to meet people and interact,” she adds.
Williams says that Twitch “allows teens to open their world and interact with other young people around the world.” This is particularly important for teenagers because “adolescence is a crucial time for social development when teens are learning “to connect with others in more complex and emotionally intimate ways,” she explains.
What can parents do?
When it comes to Twitch, Ordoñez says it’s important to help teens “develop the skills, tools and information they need to stay safe while feeling empowered.”
Milanaik recommends parents “stay vigilant.” She recommends parents talk to their children about the risks involved in seeking financial compensation, engage in risky conversations that could reveal the teen’s identity or whereabouts, or “embark on more isolated situations,” such as: Space or provide a way to contact them outside of Twitch.
Dubrosa says parents “should feel empowered to monitor their teens’ live streams, either physically or via the internet as a moderator.”
Taking that away
While Twitch shares many of the benefits and risks of other social media platforms, Dubrosa warns against them “The nature of live streaming prevents particular dangers, and the donation system can easily lead to predators taking advantage of children.” While an outright ban probably won’t work, Williams says that parents of teens who use Twitch “regularly send their teens to the Family rules about online behavior should be reminded, including what can and cannot be shared online.”