Twitch is where people go to watch live streams of other people play video games. That’s the cliffs notes version, but that version doesn’t really do justice to the cultural phenomena that is Twitch.tv.
Let’s talk about why and how Twitch became popular, and how parents can make sure it’s safe for their children.
Twitch.tv is a streaming website, used mainly for users who live-stream themselves playing popular video games. If your child is remotely interested in gaming, you can probably find the Twitch app on his or her phone. It’s currently the most popular website for viewing live streams of games, attracting children, as well as other gamers of all ages.
Watching someone else play a game? Why would I do that?
Videos of people playing games have been a big thing on the Internet for a while now. This started with short ‘Let’s play’ videos, and matured into websites and platforms centered around watching video games, such as Twitch or Youtube Gaming. Twitch is just the most popular.
You might ask – why do people even watch video game streams? why is that fun? and the answer is simple: for the same reasons people watch sporting events even though they don’t necessarily play the sport themselves, or watch cooking shows even without being great chefs. It’s fun to see how someone else plays the games you enjoy, especially if they’re very skilled at them.
And of course, Twitch is THE place to watch live esports – video game played competitively and at a very high level.
And finally, Twitch is also a great way to experience games you can’t play for yourself, for lack of time (less relevant for kids) or for a lack of funds (slightly more relevant).
Games, cooking shows, podcasts and IRL (In Real Life) channels
Twitch is a cultural phenomenon. Kids (and adults as well) go there not only to watch, but to also follow and interact with their favorite streamers on Twitch chat. Some popular streamers have reached celebrity levels of fame, fostering communities of tens of thousands of followers and subscribers. Many streamers, even the less popular ones, consider streaming their career and main source of income. Streaming video games might become the new dream career for many young people around the world. I a few years, that dream might not even sound sou ridiculous.
At any given moment, thousands of Twitch streamers play thousands of games. There is a huge variety of categories and channels, and some of them feature activities other than gaming, such as cooking, arts and crafts, talk shows, podcasts, or just streamers chatting with their followers. One of the most popular Twitch categories, IRL (acronym of In Real Life), doesn’t feature any specific activity, just streamers chatting with their audiences, or going about their daily routine.
Parents, watch your credit cards
Twitch is also a place to spend money, so parents – watch your credit cards. Twitch users can purchase a subscription to their favorite streamers, or donate ‘Bits’ during streams (Subscriptions might give users access to special premium features, and Bits are the Twitch currency, which of course, is purchased with real money).
And finally, Twitch is also a sort of social network – users can chat, add friends, and send them private messages, called ‘Whispers’. These social features lead us to the next question – is Twitch safe for children?
Is Twitch safe for children?
There are a few things parents of young children should be aware of. First, many of the video games featured on Twitch are too violent or inappropriate for small children and tweens.
Along with violent games, there are also streamers who use mature language and discuss mature content, such as alcohol or drugs. While Twitch has a severe no nudity or sexual content policy, live streams might still be highly inappropriate for young children. Currently, there is no way to block or apply parental controls to specific content on Twitch.
And most importantly, unless your child specified otherwise, anyone can contact her of him through private messages. Fortunately, it’s possible to opt-out of that feature.
Turning off ‘Whispers’ from strangers:
1. Click on the profile pic in the upper left corner of the app
2. Click on the cogwheel icon
3. Go to ‘Settings’ and then to ‘Security + Privacy’
4. Turn on the ‘Block whispers from strangers’ option in the App’s privacy settings.
Now, only people your child already added as friends will be able to him or her messages.
If your child is using Twitch, either the app or the website, you should definitely talk about it. Understand which channels your child is viewing, and why, and help them steer clear of channels and games that might be inappropriate for them.
Online privacy and parental monitoring
Of course, no conversation with your child about Twitch will be complete without discussing general ground rules for staying safe and maintaining online privacy. Also, consider looking into Snapchat monitoring for parents, Instagram parental controls, avoiding dangerous apps for kids, and instructions for how to set parental controls on an Android phone, or monitor kids’ social media.
A parental child monitoring app like Jiminy will tell you if your child is using Twitch, and how much. If you want to know more about your child’s online habits, click here.