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Live Streaming 101: What Parents Should Know

While live streaming services like YouNow have been around for a while, many other apps have started incorporating live streaming features as well.

Facebook has Facebook Live, Tumblr has partnered with YouNow to incorporate streaming features directly into the app, and YouTube now allows videos to be streamed live as well (no editing required).

Children and adults often use these and other apps to communicate with others and play games, so it’s important for you to understand the benefits and risks of live streaming, as well as how to keep yourself and your child safe as live streaming features, become more mainstream.


Benefits of Live Streaming for Children

Before we get into the risks of live streaming, we should mention the benefits. Live streaming has the potential to:

  • Boost creativity. Just like posting photos on Instagram can be a great creative outlet for some, live streaming is a great fit for others, especially children who prefer to communicate “in person.”
  • Broaden horizons. Watching live streams from all across the world can help children get a better grasp of creative styles, and fuel their own creative journeys.
  • Make them feel like they are a part of something. Live streaming is great for bringing people together, and children are no exception.


Risks of Live Streaming for Children

There are also multiple risks associated with live streaming, some of which may impact your child as well.

What your children might see

The majority of live streams are pretty mundane, but, since there is no editing involved in live-streaming, there’s no telling what your child might end up seeing.

There have been a couple of instances where death has been part of a live stream. In addition, being online often comes with reduced inhibitions, therefore seeing videos of drug use, profanity and nudity is pretty common.

What your children might share

Since being online results in fewer inhibitions, children and adults might also be tempted to share personal details or engage in behavior they would not dream about in “real life.”

Even if children or adults don’t share their real name, their location or surroundings may be enough for potential offenders to find out personal information about them.

There’s no telling who’s watching the live stream, so, even when children or adults feel like they are safe among their peers, it's not necessarily true. In addition to that, offenders will often use trickery and flattery to get children and adults to share personal details or do something they otherwise would not. Attempts to abuse children’s trust in adults are also common.

What your children might experience

Since positive affirmation is very important to developing children, they may feel unappreciated or sad if their follower count has gone down or if they are receiving negative feedback from their audience. This may affect adults in a similar way.

They may also feel pressured to live up to their audience’s expectations and may be tricked into doing or sharing something they otherwise would not. Engaging in risky activities to get more live stream views is actually pretty common, so keep an eye out for that!

Your children may also feel like they are missing out on something if they are not constantly checking and watching people’s streams. That could raise concerns about too much screen time, and distract them from other important activities in life.


What You Can Do as A Parent to Keep Your Child Safe

  • Stay aware and involved. Talk to your child about their online activities (and not just the risky stuff). Instead of sitting down for one big talk, consider chatting about what they are watching and enjoying online pretty regularly. Seeing positive parental engagement will help them be more open with you about things that are not going well, including things that worry them.

  • Check your privacy settings. Checking a few boxes in your computer’s settings can have a big impact on safety. For example, make sure that the only people who can view your child’s profile (and your profile) are the ones you know and trust.

  • Keep live streaming to public spaces. While craving more privacy is understandable, keeping live streaming activities to public spaces with adult supervision can reduce many of the risk factors described above, especially if your child is still young.

  • Be wary of requests to chat in private. Offenders will often try to lure children away to more private, less moderated spaces where they can talk more freely. That’s a huge red flag, so make sure your child knows it, too!

  • Build mental resilience. You can build your child’s resilience and self-esteem to make sure it’s not dependent on online fans or live stream views. Let them know when they’ve done something right (like being nice to a sibling or tackling household chores), and provide plenty of positive affirmation to them during face-to-face conversations.

  • Make sure your child knows where to turn for help. Prepare your child for live stream mistakes and mishaps, by making sure they know where to turn for help (inside and outside of the live streaming platform).


Final Thoughts

While there are multiple benefits to watching and sharing live streams, the risks can be substantial. Become aware of and involved in your child’s online activities

If you’d like to take a step back from technology, check out our family-friendly 21-Day Digital Detox.

It provides 21 micro lessons on how to live with technology while creating balanced and healthy boundaries without going offline completely.

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