One of the biggest gaming innovations of recent years has been the meteoric rise of streamlining. Services like Twitch have become incredibly popular with younger age groups, with more than 7.5 million active streamers currently using the service. However, active streamers represent just a fraction of the overall Twitch community. As of 2022, it’s estimated that the streaming service receives more than 140 million unique visitors every month.
Twitch is particularly popular with younger demographics. In fact, around 75% of Twitch users fall into the 16-34 age bracket. As with any online platform, parents are right to be wary of allowing teenagers to engage with Twitch. Although it’s a useful tool for producing creative content and engaging with a like-minded community, it can also prove incredibly toxic.
Age Restrictions and Parental Monitoring
Thankfully, Twitch goes some way in protecting youngsters from inappropriate content and toxic corners of the community. Currently, would-be users of Twitch need to be aged 13 or over to register an account. If a parent suspects an underage child has created an account, Twitch makes it easy to have these accounts suspended.
However, the platform operators also recommend that parents take an active role in monitoring usage. Although the platform doesn’t offer any advanced parental controls, it is possible to block select streams. Furthermore, chat filters can be enabled to prevent users from being exposed to explicit and defamatory language.
Twitch as a Creative Platform
Twitch is popular with content creators. Everything from food to fashion is fair game here, although video gaming content has always been the focus. If your youngsters are big fans of PC and console gaming, Twitch is one of the best online avenues for seeking out user-generated content. You won’t struggle to find someone broadcasting CSGO live or streaming a speedrun playthrough of the latest console release on Twitch.
Their chat facility can also provide teens and young adults with a support network and allow them to build online friendships with others who share their interests and passions. As with all social media and online services, when used correctly, Twitch can be a wonderful place.
More users than ever are also turning to Twitch to monetize their content. For entrepreneurial youngsters, streaming via Twitch can prove a lucrative venture. It can also bolster profiles for young gamers looking to embark on a career in professional esports.
The Toxic Underbelly of Twitch
Although Twitch is a vibrant online platform for video game enthusiasts, it’s not the most kid-friendly of places. Many streamers have been accused of sharing toxic views in recent years. In some cases, public opinion has forced these notorious users away from the platform. However, others have found a willing audience for their controversial opinions and continue to enjoy significant viewing statistics.
In particular, issues of misogyny and racism have plagued Twitch and some users capitalize heavily on ‘shock factor’ statements.
Thankfully, parents can take some steps to mitigate how much controversial content their teens are exposed to. Chat filters are useful, but there’s no guarantee they’ll keep out every controversial comment. It’s a good idea to occasionally check in on what your teens are watching.
Look at what channels they’re watching regularly and do some research into the streamer in question. If you quickly land upon some bad press, simply block the channel in question and keep monitoring teen viewing habits to ensure they’re not being exposed to anything untoward.
Putting It in Perspective
Since the dawn of the internet, teenagers and young people have sought out conversation and interaction online. Before the emergence of social media and content sharing platforms, chatrooms and messengers were the online social-go to for teens.
Whilst the potential problems with Twitch should continue to be assessed by parents and site moderators, parents may take a small comfort in knowing that keeping children safe online is a hot topic of conversation, and much has been done in the last decade to improve it. The ‘wild west’ days of unmoderated chatrooms are beginning to fade into the past and informed teens are more likely to seek like-minded individuals with whom to share content.
With that being said, vigilance is key and until internet safety for children is foolproof, much of the onus will rest on parents. Talking openly with children about the toxic attitudes they may come across online, is your first line of defense. In particular, discussing racism and sexism and what is/is not acceptable will help your children build a picture of who they should avoid on Twitch.