28th April 2017
Technology and media continue to develop and with 33% of 8-17 year olds surveyed saying they have live streamed, the ability to broadcast anything you are doing across the world without delay or edit presents us with some questions:
What opportunities and risks does live streaming offer, and should we be worried?
For young people it presents the chance to be a creator, a presenter, someone who is doing something different and this is appealing. To many of those who have grown up as ‘digital natives’ it’s a “logical progression in a world where the online documentation of life moments –is a key aspect of communication and self-expression.”  The inspiration to live stream takes it’s lead from reality TV and YouTube, however it is uncensored, unedited and unrehearsed. Used in positive ways it can be a campaigning tool, create identity, showcase talent and develop skills in communication.
It can help to think about young people’s developmental stage when thinking about motivations for live streaming, Dr Pamela Rutledge suggests, ‘adolescents are in a developmental period where self-presentation is very important.” Sharing something and having people show an interest in the present moment you are broadcasting can feel like the ultimate confidence and ego boost. Research by Lauren Sherman into the pleasure and rewards that you receive from interaction and ‘likes’ found, ‘the neural circuitry involved in receiving 'likes' is also involved in the experience of many sorts of pleasure.’ The immediacy of live streaming combined with the pleasure of affirmation speaks directly to the adolescent brain, so we have to consider- could this also be misused?
If we think about instant gratification within an unregulated environment let’s remember what happened to the children in Charlie and the Chocolate factory. More complex still is the notion that turning into a giant blueberry is probably live streaming gold. Adolescents need support in determining what is fantasy and reality as Professor Tanya Byron highlighted in her research of the adolescent brain, especially in online environments that are increasingly based on trust rather than fact.
When we see stories in the news about live streaming used to broadcast abusive or harmful behaviour, they offer opportunities to have discussions with young people to help them decipher motivation, consequence and how it applies to their lives.
In our professional lives there are people responsible for enforcing editorial guidelines, and we need to help young people to be involved and in control of doing this for themselves. Hearing their views on what they think are the issues of concern, and how they would responsibly live stream, offers an empowering alternative to blaming a developing technology that for many represents progress, innovation and perhaps even a golden ticket.
For further information on live streaming apps you can view our YouNow guide, Thinkuknow 14+ ‘webcam with confidence’ article, or perhaps work with a group of young people to create their very own guide to live streaming.