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 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.

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.

Talk to them. The best way you can protect your child is to talk to them. Not just once, but have ongoing conversations as part of your family life. Having these discussions little and often is more effective than one big chat.

Talking to your child about the positive aspects of being online and not just the risks will help your child to talk more openly about their internet use, including anything that worries them.

Use devices in public spaces. As young people grow up, they often seek more privacy and autonomy in both their offline and online world. Younger children should be closely supervised by an adult and live streaming should not take place in a private space, like the bedroom or bathroom.

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

Privacy and safety settings. Go through the privacy and safety settings with your child. With younger children make sure only trusted friends and family they know offline  can view their online profiles and videos.

Be wary of requests to chat in private. People who are seeking to harm children may try and move them 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 private, away way from other people.

Support and Reporting. It’s really important to make sure your child knows where to go for support if they need it, and how to report concerns. Remind them that they can always speak to you or an adult they trust if they are worried. Support them to identify trusted sources and organisations on the internet such as Brook, The Mix and Childline.

Talk to them about how to report directly to social media platforms or CEOP if they're concerned about contact from an adult.

Conversation starters.

Starting a conversation with your child about live streaming doesn’t need to be scary or difficult.

Here’s a few ideas to get you started.

Age appropriate news or TV stories. Use an appropriate story to ask your child what advice they would give to the person in this situation. Together you can discuss some of the practical steps a person could take.

Photo versus live streaming. Ask your child if they think there are any differences between a photo being shared online and a live stream. You can use this conversation to reinforce the message that although live streaming seems in the moment, anyone watching could be recording and saving it, just like with a photo

Likes and views. Ask your child for their opinion on likes and views on social media and what it means to them or their friends. For example, how do likes make them feel and do they think the likes they get are all genuine? This can help you to start a conversation about why someone they don’t know might be liking their online activity.