Browse all articles

Why does my teen like to watch people play games on YouTube?

At any one time, there are thousands of gamers broadcasting themselves playing games on the main YouTube channel as well as on YouTube Gaming. Gamers can live-stream themselves narrating their way through games, post videos of Let's Plays (recordings of them playing games), and much, much more. It may not make much sense to parents, but live-streaming and Let's Plays attract serious fans. Enthusiasts gather to watch, chat, pick up tips, and enjoy the game -- not unlike other spectator sports.

Even though it seems like a solitary activity, watching others play the games you love is a form of social interaction. The top players are celebrities in the gaming world, and they draw huge audiences. But while YouTube has age-appropriate games such as Minecraft and Mario Kart, it features tons of violent video games, including Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, Assassin's Creed, and more. And it's not just the games themselves that can be mature. The broadcasters and comments are totally unfiltered and frequently littered with hate speech, homophobia, sexism, and other derogatory talk. YouTube's Restricted Mode setting will block some of the edgy stuff, but not all.

If your teen likes to watch gamers on YouTube, it may be hard to restrict. You can try these tips for limiting YouTube content [[link to Q above]]. While lots of YouTube gamers are perfectly fine for kids, it's a good idea to check in and see who and what they're watching. You also want to help your kid manage their viewing time, as these videos can run upward of 30 minutes. Check the game reviews on Common Sense Media to find conversation-starter ideas for the games your teen likes. Here are some ideas to connect with teens over their interest in YouTube gamers.

Ask who their favorite players are and why. You might be surprised that your teen likes certain gamers because of the worldly wisdom they impart while they're playing. Just showing an interest in your teen's world helps strengthen your bond and gives you an in for conversation.

Talk about the games. Video games can be incredibly complex. The gamers who play the titles your teen likes reveal new and unique aspects of games that your kid didn't know about -- and which they can use when they play. Help them identify these takeaways -- they might lead to other interests or topics of discussion.

Counter negative messages. The video-gaming world can be very aggressive. There's swearing, sexist and racist comments, and more. Don't let your teen get away with adopting these attitudes. Keep reinforcing messages such as the importance of treating all people with respect.

Steer them toward the good stuff. Even ultra-violent video games have less violent alternatives. If your kid is getting into games that you think are too mature, help them find more appropriate ones to play.

Talk about different kinds of games. Discuss the differences between educational games, other games, and videos. Why is one type more beneficial? How can kids tell the difference between a site with games that offer some learning potential and games that are meant for adults?

Discuss good sportsmanship. Users can watch live feeds on the site and comment on what they're seeing. What kinds of things should kids never say when interacting with others online?

Common Sense Media

Common Sense Media offers the largest, most trusted library of independent age-based ratings and reviews. Our timely parenting advice supports families as they navigate the challenges and possibilities of raising kids in the digital age.