Twitch, a video streaming platform, has an average of 17.5 million daily visitors with about 1.5 million viewers at any given moment. With a wide variety of live content available, from unboxing videos to gameplay, it’s more than likely your child has visited the site. It’s also becoming a hotspot for people who are tiring of TikTok. But with no parental controls, Twitch might be a cause of concern for many parents. Here’s what parents should know about the popular platform.
What Is Twitch?
Twitch grew popular within the gaming community as it gave free access to streams playing popular game titles like Fortnite and League of Legends. Similar to YouTube, Twitch hosts content across multiple categories such as Art, Talk Shows & Podcasts, Food & Drinks, and Just Chatting. Unlike YouTube and its family-friendly version YouTube Kids, however, Twitch lacks restrictions for younger users.
With so many categories on Twitch, users have access to a variety of content — politics, mukbangs, ASMR, people doing makeup, and even people just chatting with their audience. Even without a registered Twitch account, anyone can watch a stream.
Each stream also has a live chat feature that allows the viewers to converse with one another. Depending on the stream, the chat can be restricted to subscribers or followers of the specific streamer. Despite possible restrictions on chatting, users don’t need to be following or subscribed to a user to view the chat.
While Twitch is free, users can still spend money on the platform. For a monthly fee starting at $4.99, users can subscribe to their favorite streamers to gain exclusive privileges, which typically involve private chats and user badges.
Users can also buy bundles of “Bits,” which are Twitch’s form of currency. Using Bits, users can Cheer — show support for — the streamer they’re watching. Like Bits, users can also provide “Donations” to their favorite streamers.
Is Twitch Safe for Kids?
Twitch requires that registered users be at least 13-years-old. Like many other social media platforms, it’s quite easy to bypass the minimum age requirement. Accounts can be easily created with a valid email address, and as previously mentioned, people can still view streams without an account.
According to Twitch’s Creator Camp, “Anyone can stream, but if you’re under the age of eighteen, make sure you have the supervision of a parent or guardian before you go live.” Of course, there’s no way to confirm parental supervision for underage streamers.
A Wired investigation found dozens of channels belonging to children who appeared to be under the age of 13. In their live chats, Wired found anonymous participants sending inappropriate messages to underaged users.
Recently, Twitch placed a temporary ban on President Donald Trump’s account as it live-streamed controversial Trump speeches and hosted racist comments from Trump’s Tulsa Rally. In July, The Nation also found that the US military was actively recruiting young people through Twitch. The US Army, Navy, and Air Force all have esports teams of personnel who play video games and chat with viewers on Twitch.
No Parental Controls
Currently, there are no parental controls or screen time restrictions available on the popular platform.
Twitch doesn’t allow threatening language or sexually explicit content, but it does allow gameplay with violence and/or nudity. Twitch’s community guidelines also ban hate speech, derogatory comments, and cyberbullying, but they can also be found in some streams and chats, according to Common Sense Media.
If you have a Twitch account, you can set chat filters to block discrimination, sexually explicit language, hostility, and/or profanity. However, these settings don’t remove all of the offending content and can be removed just as easily as they can be added.
Common Sense Media recommends that parents hold off on letting their young children use the streaming platform until they are at least 15-years-old.