Frequently Asked Questions: Streaming 101
Let’s get started
Streaming is a popular form of entertainment whereby content is broadcast live from an internet connected device. Watching a stream does not usually cost money but there are many avenues for viewers to give or “donate” money to their favourite streamer.
While many come to streaming for the content, people often stay for the sense of social community. There are general community guidelines for the social communities around streaming to keep them safe and welcoming for all; however, these guidelines are not foolproof.
Parents should monitor the streaming channels their children are watching to make sure they are age appropriate. Parents should consult the “help” pages of any particular streaming platform and become acquainted with the built-in protections it might offer (e.g. to restrict spending, restrict communication between users).
Here are the basics
What is streaming?
Streaming refers to broadcasting oneself live from an internet connected device, such as a phone, computer, or video game console.
Where do people stream?
There are multiple streaming avenues available for the live streaming of games (i.e., Facebook Gaming, YouTube, Twitch), with www.twitch.tv being the most popular and most well-known.
What do people stream?
How popular is streaming?
According to Twitch , 3.8 million streamers broadcasted themselves on their platform alone in February 2020 with 15 million unique daily viewers and monthly users hovering around 140 million. The most popular gaming streamers are now celebrities in their own right and familiar names in many households.
Does it cost the viewer money to watch online?
Streaming is inherently “free’ to the viewer and for the person streaming the content. That said, there are several ways in which money can be exchanged between viewer and streamer. These are discussed in more detail below along with tips on how to limit spending.
Subscriptions: For a small monthly fee, viewers gain extra access or benefits to a channel. For example, a subscription could unlock exclusive emojis or emotes to use in the channel or access to the associated chat room or social media page.
“Bits”: Viewers can also give “Bits” (i.e., Twitch’s platform specific virtual currency. Note the term for small donation amounts may vary depending on the platform) which viewers purchase through an in-stream interface, as a form of a tip.
Larger donations: Larger streamers can feature leaderboards showing the high value cash donations made by individual viewers. These donations are usually given via PayPal or another donation service.
Limiting Spending: The best way to ensure you or your child will not be spending money on streaming is to not link credit card information to Twitch or your chosen platform’s account. Another option is to pre-purchase “Bits” or virtual currency for your child, therefore putting a hard limit on how many they have available to spend.
Is streaming about games? Community? Or Both?
At its core, streaming is about social community. While the games may bring in the viewer initially, it is the social community that keeps them coming back. This is perhaps unsurprising as research has found communities formed in and around online games to be associated with reduced feelings of isolation and loneliness
While streaming platforms are primarily used to share live video game play, they also often take an active role in creating larger virtual communities for players through social media and third-party chat servers, such as Discord.
Are there general guidelines or protections for these social communities?
Some streaming services provide general community guidelines. For example, the community guidelines of Twitch specifically prohibit “breaking the law; account suspension evasion; self-destructive behavior; violence and threats; hateful conduct and harassment; unauthorized sharing of private information; impersonation; spam, scams and other malicious content; nudity, pornography, and other sexual content; extreme violence; gore; and other obscene conduct; intellectual property (twitch.tv, 2019).
Individual streamers and channels are also free to create and enforce their own specific rules. There are also some third-party software programs available that can flag and censor chatroom content. Users whose language is flagged can be reported back to the platforms and their account can be terminated.
How do I make sure my child is consuming age-appropriate game content?
Some platforms have some built in protections. For example, Twitch has some built in filters that allow you to block discrimination, sexually explicit language, and profanity within the chatrooms of the platform itself.
Also, almost all streaming services use a tagging system that allows streamers to assign content labels to their shows. If you are concerned about the content of the games within any particular stream that your child may be watching, the first step would be to check these content labels.
How do I make sure the social community around any particular streamer is age-appropriate?
Just like in other online gaming spaces, so-called “toxic behaviors” can still occur. The best way to get a sense of the appropriateness of the social community of any particular channel is to watch the stream with your child to get a sense of whether or not the social atmosphere is appropriate.
What about Stranger Danger?
If you are concerned about your child speaking to people they do not know, there are often built-in controls for blocking private messages from strangers (e.g., Settings → Security and Privacy → Privacy section of Twitch). Parents are encouraged to “Block Whispers from Strangers” if you are concerned about your child speaking to people that they do not know.
Watch streaming with your child so you can see the suitability of what they are viewing
Understand the content labels a streamer has assigned to their show
Set boundaries on time limits, privacy and content suitability
If you are not comfortable in a streaming situation, leave it and report if necessary
Be aware of the different spend types which can be made on streaming platforms
Familiarise yourself with the different protection types available - i.e. 3rd party censoring software