With PlayStations, Xboxes, the Nintendo Switch and home computers, gaming has come a long way since arcade machines. Twitch is one of the world’s leading live streaming platform for gamers. Find out how it works, what the risks are and how to stay safe.
WHAT IS TWITCH
Twitch is an interactive live streaming platform that is part of Amazon. It is mostly used for gaming, but it is starting to be used for other things. People can broadcast their own gaming adventures on Twitch and share it with their friends and the gaming community. The person streaming their game can add commentary or appear alongside the game so you can watch them play.
Although it’s mainly used for streaming and watching people play games, keep in mind that not every channel will be for gaming. Some channels will do what are called IRL streams (in real life streams), which is when people broadcast their day to day life. There are even channels for arts and crafts like woodworking.
To get started you need to make an account by registering your email address. It’ll ask which games you’re interested in spectating or which communities you want to join. This information will create a list of recommended channels for you similar to other community streaming sites like YouTube.
On your Twitch homepage (Twitch.tv) you’ll find a list of channels recommended for you as well as a popular channels that are currently streaming. You can watch the broadcast by clicking on their icon. If you think this channel is for you, you can Follow them to add them to your list of favourites.
What does it cost
Twitch is free to use but that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to spend money to connect with your favourite streamers. You can pay for Twitch Prime which will let you subscribe to your favourite streamers and you may even get a shout out from them live on-air. When you subscribe to a streamer, the streamer gets a cut as well.
If you’re feeling more generous you can make direct donations to Streamers using a debit or credit card. Streamers will usually read out personal messages that you can attach to your donation. Just like other paid services online make sure you spend responsibly and only buy things with the credit card holders permission.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE ONLINE SAFETY CHALLENGES?
Live streaming is different to video calling as it doesn’t enable two-way audio and video communication. As live streams are moderated retrospectively, you might see content that is uncensored and potentially harmful to the people in the stream.
If you are live streaming it’s important to remember this becomes a part of your digital footprint so to think carefully about the content you’re sharing. Live stream platforms record the content you create and make it available to replay after the stream has finished. Things that are said or done ‘in the moment’ can become a permanent part of a persons online identity.
For the streamers, one challenge is that viewers are often anonymous and can hide behind usernames that obscure their identity making it impossible to know who’s watching you.
Twitch is also designed to be entertaining which means people might lose track of time.
HOW CAN YOU MAKE TWITCH SAFER?
- Take the time to read the safety features of Twitch
- Understand how you can restrict spending or donate to a favourite streamer
- Consider enabling the security and safety settings which includes disabling locations services
- Be careful about broadcasting from your home. Try to leave out any landmarks or identifiable locations
- To stay safe on Twitch you can block people so you don’t have to interact with them, or you can disable whispers from strangers, which are direct messages sent only to you
ADVICE FOR PARENTS
You might find it odd that young people watch other people play games as they are playing them themselves but it can be rewarding and engaging activity. You might be worried that your young person is alone or isolated when they’re spending their time hunting aliens and building virtual lego. The good news is, with streaming services like Twitch, gaming is mostly a shared experience even when they’re at home.
The majority of content on Twitch is appropriate for all ages, but there’ll be some channels that stream games that are age restricted (R18 for example). Young people won’t be able to play these games, but they might inadvertently see more mature content if they watch these channels.
There are some steps you can take to minimise the risks:
- Understand what channels your child is subscribing to, and familiarise yourself with the personalities that run them
- Don’t let tamaraki watch Twitch content unsupervised
- Explore the Twitch safety features with your child so they know how to block people and manage any harassment
As with any online safety issue, we know that having regular and open conversations with your children about what they are doing helps mitigate potential harm. It’s important to set boundaries with your kids if they do use Twitch. Encourage your child to share with you if they have upsetting experiences and make sure they’re aware that any harassment, inappropriate language, bullying or hacking can be reported.
Our Online Safety Parent Toolkit is a great place to get parents and whānau talking about online safety. It outlines some of the main challenges young people face online and provides tips and advice on how to help your child.
If you have any other Twitch tips or experiences to share, let us know using the #stayconnectedstaysafe on social media or email us.
If you’re concerned about the immediate safety of you or someone else, please call 111. If you want help or expert incident advice, you can contact us. Our service is free, non-judgemental and available seven days a week.
- Email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Call toll free on 0508 NETSAFE (0508 638 723)
- Online report at netsafe.org.nz/report
- Text ‘Netsafe’ to 4282