What is Live Streaming? How to use it?

Live Streaming apps have taken over the market and offer social media users the ability to connect with anyone, anytime, anywhere in the world.

So what exactly is live streaming? It just consists of using your smartphone to stream videos to countless people in real-time. Today’s most popular apps are Facebook Live, Periscope, and LiveStream, but others like Instagram Live, YouTube, and Meerkat. Most offer built-in user communities, and all of them are gaining popularity with teens, raising concerns about the safety of live streaming.

This technology is certainly attractive; however, (you know it already) it presents some notorious dangers for tweens and teens. Hazards that you, as a parent, cannot ignore.

Currently, the concern about these applications centers on privacy and inappropriate content. While a child who broadcasts live plays a video game on the Twitch platform sounds innocuous, interacting with strangers through the chat feature is not.

Also, the fear that your child will see something problematic, such as suicide live, is enough to draw people’s attention to the repercussions of these technologies.

We learned the hard way that what’s fun for kids online is often risky in terms of personal privacy, safety, and even mental health.

I spent a few hours researching each of these applications. The technology blew me away. However, after a few minutes of investigating each of the applications, the “wow” that the technology caused me vanished when I had evidence of the dangers.

Tweens and Teens Stream

Tweens and teens stream their videos for short or long periods. What do they do? Not much. They hang out. They answer questions made by random users who click on their profiles live (the goal is to gain favorites and followers, of course, so that a streaming user can climb positions in trends).

Some children sing others dance, and some show their bodies. Some speak freely and share secrets with strangers. Most of the users I observed appeared to be between 12 and 18 years old.

I was not surprised to find several tweens and teens chatting on their phones while lying seductively on their beds.

Many of the children were home alone and unsupervised. How do I know? Because many of the random users asked them if they were home alone, and they confirmed it. They also responded when asked their age, what school they went to, and where they lived (all personal information that can remain used to discover their identity or even harass them).

The truth is that these applications can open doors to cyberbullying, inappropriate content, sexual predators, and much more. They are not suitable for tweens and teens, and their terms of use make that explicit. Yet many kids turn to apps to watch, show off, get that coveted digital “like,” and connect with their peers in a fun new way. They probably aren’t looking for the shocking content they’ll find later, so take the time to check out their home screens and have that foundational conversation.

Discussion points for families

  1. Talk about the positives.  Always start with the positive. Talk to your kids about the appeal of live streaming, some positive ways they saw their friends or others use the apps, and what they think of the feedback features. Talk about the incredible ways these apps can remain used with today’s technology. Analyze the possible dangers. Ask your kids what some of the negatives can occur if they or a friend use the apps.
  2.  Open one of the apps with them and watch some teen broadcasts together (if they qualify). Ask your child to point out all the possible dangers in the type of content that person shares, their surroundings, or the way they dress. Also, read the comments; analyze tone, intention, and friendliness. Point out the good and destructive behaviors.
  3. Talk about the exceptions. If your child has a buddy who will be streaming from a special event like a school football game, birthday, or prom, using one of the apps on a case-by-case basis might be an option.
  4. Talk about privacy. If you allow your child to use the live-streaming apps, be sure to talk about privacy and copyright. Movies, concerts, sporting events, or any paid event should not stay shared because they stay privately owned.
  5. Also, make sure they have the permission of others in the room before broadcasting and tell them to consider any original artwork or music they may share. Next, talk about protecting your privacy. You must mention the importance of hiding sensitive information, such as your exact location and identity details, while online.

Use parental controls.  Some streaming services, like Twitch,  offer parental controls that allow you to moderate the type of content your child may encounter, so you should implement these settings as quickly as possible.

To add a  little more security,  McAfee’s Total Protection: Family Group with Safe Family,  parents can keep their children safe while using websites and applications.