What Parents Need To Know About Twitch

Twitch racks up an impressive 15 million users daily. As with any online platform, predators can and do manipulate underage uses on the livestreaming site. Here's what parents need to know to keep their children safe.

Amazon.com Inc.'s Twitch Livestreams Logo On Cell Phone
Photo: Getty

Social media and the amount of apps our children use change rapidly, so it can be hard for parents and caregivers to keep up with what the latest platforms. Live streaming has rapidly taken off and the platform Twitch TV, owned by Amazon, has over 15 million daily visitors. But are sites like Twitch safe for our kids? Here's everything parents need to know about the popular platform.

What Is Twitch?

Twitch was founded in 2011 and is an interactive livestreaming service utilized mostly by gamers, but you can watch anything from cooking, to day in the life videos, music performances, and live Q&A sessions with creators.

In addition to streaming, users interact with others via the chat feature. This can be done on the main Stream Chat while a user is streaming, or through Twitch's "Rooms" feature. Rooms are custom chat spaces that are available from the channel page itself, and can be set up by anyone on their own account. They're found in the header of the Stream chat on the creator's channel, which is both where Rooms can be created or joined. Rooms can be accessed via the web and mobile for Twitch users.

How Old Do Twitch Users Have To Be?

According to the terms of use, Twitch requires its users to be at least 13 years old. Users have the option to sign up for an account which requires adding your birthday. That being said, you can still watch livestreams without logging in to the site, so parents have to monitor their children's activity. Users are also able to begin livestreaming immediately after creating an account on mobile devices.

What Makes the Platform So Popular?

The website originally took off within the gaming community. Because of the ability to interact with popular livestreamers, users easily build a sense of community. Twitch also has very little competition in the livestreaming arena. Though other platforms like Facebook and YouTube have the livestream feature, they haven't replicated the same success.

Does Twitch Offer Parental Controls?

As of now, Twitch doesn't offer any type of parental controls or blocks for streams. If you are logged in, you can set chat filters to block discrimination, sexually explicit language, hostility, and/or profanity. You also have the ability to report and block users if they go against the Twitch community guidelines.

What Are the Risks to Children Using Twitch?

A study carried out from October 2020 to August 2022 and published by Bloomberg, showed that over 279,000 children were targeted on the website by predators. The Twitch predators enter the live chats of children who are livestreaming themselves and ask them to do different things such as "perform TikTok dances," show their full bodies or engage in explicit acts. Some predators "tip" or give donations to the users who take their suggestions.

Live predation has been a problem on Twitch for years, but there are signs the pandemic made it worse. While reports of apparent child sexual abuse online skyrocketed 73% from 2019 to 2021 according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), they increased 1,125% on Twitch. A Twitch spokesperson attributes the influx of NCMEC reports to the company's improved detection methods as the online platform grew.

What Is Twitch Doing To Protect Underage Users?

In the past two years, Twitch has quadrupled the size of its law enforcement response team working with the NCMEC and the Tech Coalition, an industry-wide alliance combating online child sex abuse.

"Preventing child harm is one of our most fundamental responsibilities as a society. We do not allow children under 13 to use Twitch, and preventing our service from being used for harm is one of our biggest priorities," a Twitch spokesperson wrote in a statement to Bloomberg. "We know that online platforms can be used to cause harm to children, and we have made extensive investments over the last two years to better stay ahead of bad actors and prevent any users who may be under 13 from accessing Twitch."

While children under 13 may not be allowed to use Twitch, 13 is still underage and teenagers are being taken advantage of.

The spokesperson said Twitch has "numerous additional updates in development" to detect and remove child streamers younger than 13 and predators. Twitch can't share "much of the work in this area" publicly because bad actors could use that knowledge to evade accountability, the spokesperson said.

How Can Parents Keep Their Child Safe on Twitch?

While the company claims to be doing their part in working to keep children under 13 safe, this still leaves minor children 13-17 susceptible to online predators. And as the study conducted by Bloomberg revealed, children often fall through the cracks of the streaming platform's terms of service. So what can we do as parents to keep our children safe on the site?

  • Create an open line of communication. As with anything, create a safety net for your children to come and talk to you about their Internet usage and situations which may be inappropriate. Discuss what is and is not safe Internet behavior and the permanence of acts performed online. The Internet lives on forever!
  • Go over the importance of the terms of service. FOMO is certainly a thing for many tweens and teens but its important as parents that we stress the importance of age-appropriate Internet use. As there is little way to control what your child may see when they're on the website, discussing and enforcing the age restriction falls into the parents hands.
  • Restrict use of the platform to family areas in the home. According to the Bloomberg study, most of the children who were targeted by child predators were livestreaming from their bedroom or while they were alone. If you allow your teen to use the platform, implement boundaries in which they are only allowed to stream with an adult present. This makes it easier for parents and caregivers to monitor what is happening.
  • Frequently check and monitor your child's Internet use. While there are no specific parental controls on Twitch, there are other services available to monitor Internet use. Check in frequently and make sure your kids are exhibiting the safe Internet practices you've gone over with them.
Was this page helpful?
Related Articles