A few years ago, if you had to ask someone, “What is Twitch?”, they would more than likely go into an explanation of a sudden movement. However, if you had to ask someone today who has any knowledge on video gaming culture, they would explain to you that Twitch is a social livestreaming platform primarily used by the gaming community.
Since its launch in 2011, Twitch has grown into the leading video streaming platform worldwide, boasting an average of 15 million daily users, with up to one million creators streaming at any given time. Since the start of the pandemic, which forced people to find other forms of entertainment, mainly online, Twitch has experienced a massive boom in usership, generating an income of around $2.6 billion in 2020 as opposed to $1.5 billion in 2019.
No matter what your interests are, Twitch is where you’ll more than likely find someone streaming something you’re interested in. Whether you’re into gaming, arts and crafts, just chatting, or even watching someone study, it’ll all be there on Twitch. Due to the unpredictability of livestreaming and the sense of intimacy viewers feel being able to interact with their favourite streamer in real-time, you can understand why children might find this concept irresistible.
Twitch requires users to be at least 13 years old to set up an account. Due to the fact that there are no parental controls and there is no guarantee that the content your child is viewing is family friendly, it’s advised that children under the age of 15 are supervised whilst using the platform. Although there are moderators and strict rules surrounding sexually explicit content, Twitch doesn’t offer filters or age restrictions on content that could be for mature audiences, such as violent games.
Another reason that Twitch may not be suitable for younger users is that each stream is accompanied by a chat where viewers can comment on the stream or converse with one another. There are chat moderators, including bots and humans, as well as chat settings which allow users to filter the chat to block hate speech, discrimination, profanity, and sexually explicit language, however, these filters aren’t fool proof, and something might slip through on the odd occasion. Twitch contains a direct messaging feature called “whispers”, but you can prevent whispers from strangers by enabling an option in your settings.
Twitch can be a lot of fun for kids, however, the lack of parental controls and access to public chats may be something to consider when deciding if your child is allowed to create a profile. With teens, take the time to sit with them and watch a few streams to see if the streamer they want to watch is creating content that is age-appropriate for them. Take a look at some of the channels they are interested in and help them with their privacy settings, like disallowing private messages from strangers. Ensure that they know the risks of being online alone and how to get help if and when they may need it.