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What should parents know about Twitch?

For non-gamers, the idea of watching other people play video games like Fortnite or Call of Duty doesn't make much sense. But, each month, more than 100 million people log on to Twitch to do just that. 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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