What is live streaming?
Live streaming technology lets you watch, create and share videos in real time, a bit like live TV. 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 a website or app) to live stream from.
Current popular live streaming apps include Facebook Live, Instagram Live stories, Twitch TV (often used by the gaming community), House Party and Tik Tok.
Unlike pre-recorded videos that can be cut and edited, live streaming is just that – live and uncensored.
Some live streams can be private. For example, video conferencing, like Skype or Zoom, uses live streaming technology to allow you to talk to people you have invited. To make sure they stay private, they should be password protected and passwords shouldn’t be shared with people you don’t know.
Some live streams are public and might be watched by hundreds or even thousands of people.
Viewers can comment and interact live by posting messages that appear beside the live stream. They can also share emojis such as hearts, and gifts such as coins which appear on the screen.
Why is live streaming popular?
The inspiration to live stream comes from reality TV and YouTube, where you can broadcast anything you are doing, right there in the moment, all across the world.
Live streaming is appealing to children and young people, particularly primary aged children. It gives them a chance to be a creator, a presenter and to be seen and heard by an audience and connect to their favourite celebrities.
Many live streamers love the sense of being ‘in the moment’ and interacting with family, friends, or even a global audience. From a birthday message to loved ones, to a topical Q and A or a talent showcase, there are endless opportunities to broadcast fun, important, or exciting moments live.
Viewing live streams lets children and young people connect with their own favourite live streamers. They share comments with other viewers and even interact directly with celebrities.
When used in positive way, live streaming is an excellent tool for children and young people to create identity and develop confidence and communication skills.
Children and young people enjoy getting attention and praise, and self-expression is important for development. Sharing something and getting positive feedback from others can be the ultimate confidence boost and build their self-esteem.
Live streaming also allows children and young people to connect with people with similar interests, views and going through similar experiences. This can help some young people feel less socially isolated.
Live streamers can also receive financial rewards, which is an exciting goal for some young people. For example, audiences can gift virtual coins which can be turned into money.
What makes live streaming risky?
There are several factors that can make watching or creating live streams risky for children and young people.
Content. If they’re watching other people’s live streams, children could be exposed to age inappropriate content, including sexual or violent content.
Offensive comments. If a young person’s live stream is open to the public, viewers may be able to leave negative or inappropriate comments on feeds.
Live streaming is ‘in the moment’. Live streaming is ‘in the moment’ which increases the risk of children and young people acting on impulse.
Do things they wouldn’t do offline. Children, like adults, can feel more confident when they are online as they feel protected by the screen. This can result in them saying or doing something they’d be less likely to do offline.
Digital footprints. If a live streamer makes a mistake, shares personal details, or broadcasts offensive or inappropriate material, they are doing so in public. It’s possible for viewers to record a livestream, and it could be posted online or shared more widely.
- Inappropriate contact. There can be hundreds, potentially thousands, of people watching a live stream, including people who might be looking to hurt or exploit children and young people. In order to manipulate children, these people may attempt to trick them into engaging in sexual activity, flatter them with positive comments or gifts, or make threats to try to force them to do things they don’t want to do.