Online Safety: Live Streaming Information for Parents

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What is live streaming?

Live streaming is the broadcasting of real-time, live video to an audience over the internet.  All you need to be able to live stream is an internet enabled device, like a smart phone or tablet, and a platform to broadcast on.  You can liken it to an ‘on the scene’ news broadcaster or shows like Big Brother, where the phrase ‘You are live, please do not swear!’ was made popular.

Why are live streaming platforms so popular?

Live streaming is highly appealing to children and young people as it presents the chance for them to be a creator, a presenter and to be seen by an audience.  You can broadcast anything you are doing across the world without delay or edit. With the popularity of live streaming platforms, such as YouNow and, continuing to rise, other more conventional social media platforms have branched out into the world of live streaming with Facebook introducing Facebook Live and Twitter launching Periscope, to name a few.

What are the opportunities and risks of live streaming?

The inspiration to live stream takes its 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.

When thinking of the motivations for live streaming it can help to think about young people’s developmental stages. Self-preservation is really important for teenagers, and sharing something and having people show an interest in the present moment you are broadcasting can feel like the ultimate confidence and ego boost. This immediacy combined with the pleasure of affirmation through ‘likes’ and positive comments speaks directly to the adolescent brain.

Despite the clear opportunities and gratification that live streaming presents, it is important to remember that live streaming can be both unpredictable and hard to moderate which is understandably worrying for parents and carers. There have been stories in the news about live streaming being used to broadcast abusive or harmful behaviour, young people being involved in accidents whilst live-streaming and children viewing inappropriate live streamed content that they weren’t expecting to see.

As with any form of social media there are risks such as receiving negative comments, exposing more personal information than intended and contact from strangers.  There is also the risk of possible exposure to sexualised content, both visually and through chat, and the loss of control of a streamed video once online as there is nothing to stop it being recorded, shared and be used to threaten or blackmail.

It is therefore important to have on-going conversations with your child about their internet habits and how they communicate online. This can include using age-appropriate Thinkuknow articles and recent news stories as opportunities to ask your child about their online behaviour, their views on live streaming and if it’s something that they currently do or have thought of taking part in.  This can then open up a dialogue on how they keep themselves safe online, if they know how to report directly to social media platforms and what else they can do to help them to have positive online experiences.

For more information on responding to the risks of live streaming read Live streaming: responding to the risks.