A short guide to live streaming

A short guide to live streaming

Live streaming has become a popular feature of many apps and platforms. By understanding why it is popular and what potential risks your child may face, you can help your child have a more positive online experience.

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What is live streaming?

Live streaming is the broadcasting of live video to an audience over the internet. It can also be a one-on-one live video chat. Unlike pre-recorded videos that can be cut and edited, live streaming is just that – live and uncensored. All you need to be able to live stream is an internet enabled device, like a smart phone or tablet, and a platform (such as website or app) to broadcast on.

Why are live streaming platforms so popular?

It’s appealing to young people as it gives them the chance to be a creator, a presenter and to be seen and heard by an audience.

Many live streamers love the sense of being ‘in the moment’ and interacting with family, friends, or even a global audience. Many apps enable audiences to engage immediately with live streamers by commenting and making suggestions while the stream is live. From a birthday message to loved ones, to a topical Q&A, or a talent showcase, there are endless opportunities to broadcast fun, important, or exciting moments live.

When used in positive ways, live streaming is an excellent tool for young people to create identity and develop confidence and communication skills. It also enables them to gain insight into their own favourite celebrity speakers or live streamers.

Increasingly, talented lives streamers can even charge audiences for exclusive, on-demand access to their streams. For young people and adults alike, the potential to earn money from their live streams is an exciting goal.

What makes live streaming risky for young people?

Despite the opportunities and gratification that live streaming presents, it’s important to remember that it can be unpredictable and hard to moderate.

There are several factors that can make watching or creating live streams risky for children or young people:

  • Content –Young people could be exposed to age inappropriate content, including sexual or violent content.
  • Inappropriate contact - There can be hundreds (potentially thousands) of people watching a live stream, including people who are looking to offend against children and young people.
  • Digital footprint – Everyone has seen at least a few bloopers on live television or news broadcast. Live streamers open themselves up to the same risk as presenters and broadcasters. Some of these will be minor mistakes, however, offensive or inappropriate streams can impact reputation and may have repercussions for future education and employment prospects.
  • Reduced inhibition online – Children, like adults, can feel more confident when they are online as they feel protected by the screen. This can result in children engaging in behaviour that they would not otherwise do in ‘real life’.
  • Live streaming is ‘in the moment’ – Broadcasting live increases the risk of young people sharing things they wouldn’t share via a photo or pre-recorded video, such as personal or private information, or even sexual content.
  • Losing control – There is a risk of losing control of a live streamed video as there’s nothing to stop it being recorded, shared, or being used to threaten or blackmail.
  • Offensive comments – If a live stream is open to the public, viewers may be able to leave negative or inappropriate comments on feeds.
  • Affirmation comments - Positive comments and compliments can make children feel good about themselves and accepted by others. However, the reward of compliments can increase the pressure and risks that young people take.
  • Tactics such as trickery and flattery – Some offenders use trickery to illicit indecent content. They may suggest ‘innocent’ games that trick a child into taking their clothes off. Others use flattery, such as sending compliments, fun emojis, or gifting them coins that can be exchanged for real money. These tactics are used to try and manipulate and groom young people into engaging in sexual activity online.

How you can help your child stay safe while live streaming

There are some practical steps you can take to help keep your child safe if they are using an app or website with a live streaming function.

Stay involved in their internet use - Have ongoing conversations with your child about what they are doing online. Talking to your child openly about the positive aspects of being online and not just the risky things may help your child to talk more openly about their internet use, including anything that worries them. You can use age-appropriate Thinkuknow articles and recent news stories as opportunities to ask your child about their online behaviour.

Use webcam and devices in public spaces - It's important that if primary aged children are using apps with any communication function that they are being supervised by an adult and are not in a private space.

Privacy and safety settings - Go through the privacy and safety settings together with your child, and make sure only trusted friends they know in 'real life' can view their online profiles.

Be wary of requests to chat in private - Offenders may try and move children from a public area of an app to a private area to have conversations that are likely to be less moderated. Remind your child to be wary of people they meet online who want to chat to them in a private away from other people.

Build resilience - You can help build your child's resilience and self-esteem through conversations and activities that are not based on validation from online 'fans' or views. For primary aged children this can include highlighting when your child has been nice or kind to a sibling or friend.

Practice and prepare - Advise them to practice and prepare before they broadcast. This will minimise the risk of errors, or off-script activity.

Safe and trusted adults and advice - Help your child to identify adults that are there to help. As your child gets older they may look to the internet for information and advice. Support them to identify trusted sources and organisations on the internet such as Brook and The Mix.

Reporting - Make sure your child knows where to go for support and where to report. Children can sometimes feel they are to blame if something goes wrong online. Remind them that they can always speak to you or an adult they trust if they are worried. Talk to them about how to report directly to social media platforms or CEOP if they're concerned about contact from an adult.