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.