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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this website.
What parents need to know
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's it about?
TWITCH bills itself as a social video service where a community of millions discusses Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC games. It also features videos and channel content based on hobbies and other topics. Users share live gameplay and other video (with audio) as others chime in via a chat feed; you can also choose to be invisible and just observe or cheer streamers on by buying and using Bits, a Twitch form of currency that can be used to support a user's favorite broadcasters. The site, which was launched in 2011, is now owned by Amazon, so promotion of Amazon Prime subscriptions sometimes provides benefits for Twitch users as well.
Is it any good?
The gaming-related content is the high point of this streaming-friendly site, which has varied content, but it can hard to tell whether a broadcast is safe for kids or is for adults only. Gaming fans on Twitch will find detailed, fast-paced discussions and be able to view game-playing experiences. Fewer channels seem to touch on other subjects, such as drawing and programming; on some, conversations feel like they move much slower than the gaming talk, with less dynamic visuals. But with channels and conversations in a number of languages, content scheduled to stream at different times around the clock, and videos playing automatically, it doesn't take much poking around to find something else to watch.
In addition to viewing cooking demonstrations and other content, kids can, without much effort, find other people to geek out about their favorite game with. But the community aspect is also the site's biggest concern. Dropping in on someone's uncensored conversation can expose kids to swearing and sexual references; they may also come across vloggers with ample cleavage and others who hit viewers up for financial contributions. Some mention drinking and other vices, and it's not uncommon for site users to praise the violence that's shown in games. Twitch has included some features to help protect users' privacy, such as the ability to be invisible when observing a chat conversation, but with the amount of streams available to watch and profile settings and functions to review, the privacy protections can be easy to overlook. Kids might not realize, for example, that their activity could be shared with other users unless they unclick that option. Also, selecting appropriate privacy and content settings will mean a lot of time spent digging through the site's detailed help area to tailor the experience to your needs. Twitch can be an entertaining online experience, as long as you're aware that some of that fun could also come with a hefty dose of content for mature viewers.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about online privacy. What kinds of things should you never say online, especially if it's being streamed to a worldwide audience?
Talk about violence in video games. Should streaming services have explicit age controls to regulate who can watch games with mature content? Should streams be prevented from changing from non-violent to violent games in mid-broadcast?
Discuss marketing to kids. Even though Amazon owns Twitch, should it be allowed to heavily promote its services and ads to users that only want to watch games? Would you pay extra if it meant not having to be subjected to constant promotion about Amazon?