Date Published: 21st May, 2021

If you have a gamer in your household, chances are you’ve heard the word “Twitch” being used. The name sounds fun, age-appropriate, and harmless and it would be easy to assume it is a type of game or a new slang word.

In reality, Twitch is a far more complicated platform that can expose children and young people to age-inappropriate content in a hard-to-control environment.

This article will take a closer look at how Twitch works and what you need to know to help keep your children and young people safe – make sure you read to the bottom to catch our top tips.

What is Twitch?

  • Twitch is a livestreaming platform that launched in 2011. It describes itself as a place “where millions of people come together live every day to chat, interact, and make their own entertainment 

  • It currently has over 15 million active daily users and 9.5 million active streamers

  • While it is not used exclusively for gaming, Twitch has become popular for gamers livestreaming themselves playing specific games

  • There are both free and paid versions of Twitch available with monthly subscriptions starting at £3.56. This removes ads and gives users access to exclusive streamer features. Twitch Prime is included in Amazon Prime subscriptions

    • Twitch uses in-platform currency called “Bits” that viewers can use to support their favourite streamers. Bits are sold in bundles – the bigger the bundle, the bigger the discount

Livestreaming: to transmit or receive live video and audio coverage of (an event) over the internet in real-time.

Age Requirements

Twitch guidelines state users must be at least 13 years old to register for an account. They also ask that anyone under 18 is authorised by a parent or guardian who agrees to the terms and conditions.

However, there is no effective age verification process upon signing up for an account and you do not need an account to browse video content on Twitch. This is a concern, as the unpredictable nature of livestreaming and open chat can easily lead to accessible mature content.

How Does it Work?

Twitch was created specifically for live footage broadcasters (livestreamers). It houses a variety of video content, such as cooking classes, workout routines, and traffic footage. The majority of livestreams, however, are gamers. Popular games like Among Us and COD: Warzone can be found on the home page, but any game (or theme) can be searched for on the platform.

With an account, you can follow streamers, comment on videos, use streamer chat rooms, and subscribe to your favourite channels. In addition, Twitch has a direct messaging system called “Whispers,” which allows any user to communicate with another user, even if they are not friends on the platform.

Safety Settings

  • Twitch has reporting and blocking tools available to its users

  • Users can block receiving messages from users who don’t follow them

  • Explicit language filters can be used to moderate language in a livestream chatroom (this is not perfect, however, and some language can still get through)

  • Users can pause or hide the livestream chatroom for themselves

  • All profiles are public and cannot be made private – this means anyone can view another user’s profile at any time

  • Anyone can access and watch livestreams without registering

  • Currently, there are no parental controls or “time limit” settings on Twitch

What Are the Risks?

Age Restrictions

As there is no effective age verification, there are limited restrictions on the video content that an underage viewer may see. Violent video game footageexplicit or derogatory language, and 18+ in-game content can be found on the home page. Our testers also found videos on the home page featuring female streamers in bikinis gaming from inflatable hot tubs – a common trend on Twitch that has attracted controversy 

In-Appropriate content

Some livestreamers regularly push the boundaries of what is appropriate to encourage subscribers to send more money, such as performing squats in a bikini from a suggestive camera angle for every £5 pledged. Livestreamers can set a “mature content” warning message that pops up before users begin watching the livestream. If a user clicks OK, they are taken directly to the livestream.  

 Even if the content itself seems appropriate, the live chats and chat rooms are largely uncensored. Inappropriate language is widespread, with trolls (online users who deliberately provoke others by saying inflammatory and offensive things) often invading specific chats. Users can hide the chat alongside the streams, but they cannot turn it off.  

Stranger Interaction

The “live” nature of Twitch naturally increases any user’s interaction with online strangers. Because there is a common interest, a vulnerable child or young person may come to think of another user they have “met” via livestream as a trusted friend. This rapport could be exploited to groom a vulnerable child or young person.

Gifting and Spending 

Some children or young people may feel pressured or manipulated into sending money to their favourite streamers by other users or by the streamers themselves. There are multiple examples of this, most notably a streamer who was able to buy and furnish an entire house via donations.

Our Top Tips

Explore livestreaming together

  • If a young person in your care uses Twitch or enjoys livestreaming – have an open conversation about what they enjoy about it and which streamers they like 

  • Try to understand the types of livestreams they engage with and who they might talk to on the platform 

  • Make a plan they can use when they come across something that upsets or worries them – this should include who they can talk to and how they can block and report users. You can use our Twitch Safety Card to show them how to do this 

  • Remember – even if you don’t allow a child to play a certain game, they may still watch someone else play it on Twitch 

Talk to them about sharing information and interacting with others online 

  • It’s important to talk to the children in your care about what they’re sharing online. Check that they know how to protect their personal information so other people cannot find them on other platforms, this includes screen names, their date of birth and their location 

  • We know that it can be helpful to check that the children in your care know that not everyone is who they say they are online. You should help them to understand the benefit in talking to people they already know   

Set healthy habits on screen time and in-app purchases

  • Talk about the importance of developing healthy limits when making online purchases. By setting a spending limit you can support the child in your care to understand the value of the money they are spending online. (You could reinforce this by suggesting this could come from their pocket money) 

  • Make a plan with the child in your care for when they want permission to use money on the platform. This will help them make an informed decision rather than impulsive or emotional spending 

  • Discuss the importance of deciding on healthy screen time habits together so that young people can recognise when to take a break – remember not all screen time is bad, but it’s important to get the balance right 

Check that young people can identify their trusted adult   

  • Engage young people in a conversation about keeping safe on Twitch (and other platforms) and who they would talk to if someone made them feel uncomfortable online 

  • Use our Trusted Adult Videos to help you have this conversation.  Check that they understand what they should do if they see something online that upsets or worries them 

  • Discuss the importance of deciding on healthy screen time habits together so that young people can recognise when to take a break – remember not all screen time is bad, but it’s important to get the balance right 

Use Our Safety Centre to Learn how configure your safety and privacy settings 

  • Make sure the children and young people in your care know how important it is to report inappropriate content or users and walk them through the process – you can use Our Safety Centre our Twitch Safety Card to show them how to do this.

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