Taking over from Social Networking in the child's world or just another Internet fad?

Live streaming is the ability via mobile phone or other device to broadcast yourself and your surroundings or activities ‘live’ to friends, or if you so choose, the world. Platforms such as Tiktok, Twitch, Discord and Facebook live have given users, no matter what their age, the tool to broadcast their lives/actions to many.

TikTok is a great example of massive growth in this area. Owned by a Chinese company it has now grown and expanded to 800 million active users per month and 1 billion video views (Omnicore Agency 2021). In the UK there are currently 3.7 million users, and this is expected to expand to 10 million by the end of 2021. The average user spends 41 minutes every day on the App (Social Films 2021). Gamers tend to use Discord and Twitch and the general populace has quickly got used to Zoom the more structured version of livestreaming. . The jury is out on whether Livestreaming will overtake SN sites in popularity and longevity but it has made a strong start.

‘The average user spends 41 minutes every day on the App’ (Social Films 2021)

On the plus side Livestreaming offers numerous great opportunities. It allows great creativity and expression. There are many funny, creative, entertaining, and thought-provoking videos created by users. On the downside there is the opportunity to comment on people’s videos and these comments can often be harmful and vituperative.  Of course, as with lots of sites contact with strangers is not difficult.

As well as comments there are occasions, especially with younger children or inexperienced teens where risks can be taken or foolish actions carried out which are then preserved forever and can have impact on their digital footprint and futures.

Without doubt most children want to be popular. Having the ability to garner likes and friends online has always been an aim, even more so during today’s restrictions where face to face experience is limited.

That desire has been there for a long time and back in 2007/8 there were races in school age children to get as many ‘friends’ on Facebook as you could. This would prove your popularity regardless of how many of them you actually knew. Snapchat continued the friend fest with ‘streaks’.  What has changed however is the ability of those friends to view you live.

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What do we need to consider then when looking to help our children stay safe on streaming sites? Conversation, especially with older children is important. An honest dialogue about privacy, what type of filming they intend to do and who they aim their videos at and why. As well as a conversation around settings, scalability, duration and audience.

Younger children are more of a concern. Is it wise at any stage to allow a younger child, especially under 13yrs to have access alone to a tool that allows them to broadcast to the world. How was your decision making at 10? Should you believe that your child needs to access this type of platform then surely best practice for their safety is to be with them. That does not mean you need to be in the video! Just present to view the proceedings, manage the settings and talk to them about what is permissible and what is not.

The purpose of this piece was purely to open the dialogue in what is a complicated area of the Internet with many elements open to discussion. If you would like to learn more about this and other online child protection and safety issues then please go to the training pages on this site. Sessions are structured or can be tailored to your or your organisations needs. Start the conversation NOW.  

Alan Earl – SAFE Ltd.

12th February 2021

If you may wish to discuss training options with SAFE or require any further information, please do not hesitate to contact us.