What should parents know about Twitch?

For non-gamers, the idea of watching other people play video games doesn't make much sense. But, each month, more than 100 million people do just that on Twitch. This game-enthusiast site specializes in live-streaming video broadcasts of gamers fighting, solving puzzles, and strategizing -- all while making colorful commentary. Twitch, owned by Amazon, also features gaming news, product announcements, events, and a vocal community of fans who really love games.

Here's how it works: Hundreds of games are listed in the main directory. Click on one you like to discover dozens of live videos of people playing the game. You can follow your favorite broadcasters for free or subscribe to their channel for an additional fee. You can also become a broadcaster yourself. The broadcasters -- who are from all over the world -- earn money from subscriptions. 

While Twitch is a gamer's paradise, and the overall tone is kept in line by the site's usage rules, there's plenty of age-inappropriate content. Here's more you need to know about Twitch:

  • Most of the games are pretty violent. While Twitch has milder games such as Minecraft, many are mature, including Fallout and Call of Duty.
  • Many of the commentators use mature language. Twitch has rules against getting too graphic, but kids will definitely hear and see swear words.
  • The site runs a lot of advertising. You'll see mature movie and game ads as well as fast-food commercials. (A Turbo account eliminates ads.)
  • Twitch can be a real time-waster. If you're concerned about the amount of time your kid already spends playing video games, you'll want to rein in the Twitch time, as there's an endless supply of gamers, information, and other game-buff stuff.
  • Live-streaming is risky. There's no time delay with live-streaming -- what gamers say and do goes out immediately, so the content is unpredictable.
  • Twitch costs can add up. You can watch for free or sign up for a free account with features such as chatting. A Turbo account eliminates ads and costs $8.99 per month. Each subscription to an individual broadcaster costs money.
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Adult written by Rhiannon G.

To add to the notes above about advertisements on the website, it's worth noting that some of the professional ("partnered") streamers on the site may be sponsored by other companies, and will mention these sponsorships and/or wear branded clothing during their broadcasts. So if you're concerned about advertising and product placement, it's something to be aware of. :)
Adult written by Ludwig C.

This website is advertised as a gaming platform, however there is an "IRL", In Real Life section which is typically for people to hang out and interact with the streamer and other viewers. BE WARNED, this section is typically where the viewers donate to see the streamer do things for money such as drink alcohol or do squats in revealing clothing. My 13 year old cousin, attending a Catholic High School, recently spent upwards of $500 for a young woman to do jumping jacks and squats with very inappropriate camera angles. This questionable platform should be monitored if you do not want your child to be viewing this type of suggestive content. Not only can this damage your finances, but this could damage the morals you wish to instill on your child at such a young age. I am not attacking the platform as a whole as there are some upstanding individuals that provide quality content, however the IRL section of this website can be seen as a much more mature and overall inappropriate place for your child to be spending time and money. Cheers, Ludwig Crux
Kid, 12 years old

To be honest, Twitch is a very fun way to interact with people that share your interests (when it comes to video games). Some streams/channels are kind of vulgar or whatnot, but that's just one of the many dangers of the internet. Plus, there's a setting for streamers (or as the Twitch cult calls them, "strimmers") to let people know if the broadcast is intended for mature audiences. I met a lot o f friends on Twitch in 2014. Sure, it may SEEM boring just watching someone play a game, but there's a chat room on the side of the screen , to interact with viewers just like you. And 9 times out of 10, the broadcaster will have commentary. Otherwise it'd be a pretty boring stream, you're right. And usually when an adult hears something along the lines of "chat room", they automatically think of something negative. But it's a harmless feature. There are even moderators, so depending on the rules of the stream, they'll time-out or ban viewers who have crossed the line. Okay, I've talked long enough, but despite popular belief, there's really nothing to be afraid of when it comes to Twitch. Sure, people cuss and talk about rather graphic topics, but like Eminem said: "And that's the message that we deliver to little kids and expect them not to know what a woman's clitoris is. Of course they're gonna know what intercourse is by the time they hit 4th grade, they got the Discovery Channel, don't they?" (also some of those commas might be periods, rip)