The internet offers so much opportunity to children and young people. This has been particularly acute during the COVID-19 pandemic. The continuation of their education through remote learning, providing endless hours of entertainment and helping to bridge lost social moments are just a few examples of how children have used the digital world to help them cope.
However, with opportunity also comes risk. Online dangers such as cyberbullying and trolling have increased in correlation with children’s extra screen time. This is in addition to risks which seem to ever-present; online grooming, sexting, and viewing age-inappropriate content.
Another risk that might not be so well-known arises from streamers and influencers.
What are streamers and influencers?
Streamers are people who stream themselves completing certain tasks so that people can watch online. These tasks could be drawing, dancing, making something, gaming, etc. Usually, this is done live so viewers can chat with them/comment in real-time.
Influencers are social media stars who hold ‘influence’ over their followers as a trend-setter. Companies often pay these stars to promote their products/services and lead their large number of followers to their sites.
A streamer could also be considered an influencer in their chosen area.
What are the risks?
Streamers often use platforms such as Twitch or YouTube to stream themselves and these sites have age restrictions of 13 years. However, these sites also contain other content that may not be age-appropriate.
Streamers and influencers often have sponsorship deals in place to promote a company’s products/services. If their followers are young, they may not understand that these stars are being paid for their posts and may not necessarily have their best interests in mind.
Gaming streamers also make money through subscriptions on websites such as Twitch. Fans can donate ‘bits’ to them in small amounts, as little and as often as they like. These bits can be bought in ‘bundles’ at varying prices and gifted to streamers via ‘cheers’. If children buy these bits without realising what they are purchasing, they can generate a fairly hefty bill for their parents/guardians.
Bullying and hate
While some streamers do employ moderators to try and combat hateful comments or bullying in their comments section, they can still get very hectic. Cyberbullying and online grooming, unfortunately, is very common and people who want to engage in this sort of online behaviour could frequent these live chats.
What can we do to keep our children safe?
Online gaming expert, Mark Foster, has compiled a list of safety tips for you to take on board in order to safeguard your children and students from these risks. He says:
Discuss what’s real
Engage your children in a discussion about what is real and honest online content and help them understand content that may be fake and untrustworthy. Social media stars with large followings can often be promoting unrealistic, unhealthy, and/or unattainable lifestyles to increase their own influence online.
Photoshopping, filters, airbrushing are also elements of the online world that need to be discussed. Social media is awash with heavily filtered images and social media stars can use this to promote diet pills, waist trainers, meal replacement shakes, etc.
Filters can be used to block out a lot of adult content on streaming sites. Monitor your children’s accounts so that you may set parameters and keep tabs on what they are viewing online. Parental controls are often located in the account’s settings menu.
Check age settings
As per their terms and conditions, children under the age of 13 years cannot use YouTube and Twitch, however, all sites differ. Additionally, you do not need an account to use YouTube so check your children’s internet usage. Direct them towards sites such as YouTube Kids which offers much of the same services as YouTube but without the risk of adult content.
Be conscious of affiliate links or tags such as #AD in social media posts. UK influencers must abide by the CAP code for advertising standards, meaning their “marketing communications must be obviously identifiable as such”. However, this is difficult to regulate and many influencers do not make their promotions clear to their followers.
Additionally, many streamers encourage fans to purchase merchandise through online stores.
National Online Safety can help
At National Online Safety, we are committed to keeping children safe online by providing online safety education, training and updates which empowers the whole school community.
Our comprehensive suite of online safety courses, webinars, guides, and explainer videos can be accessed remotely, anytime, anywhere on any device, through our award-winning online learning hub. Our training is developed by education experts and designed in line with the latest government guidance to ensure you comply with your legal responsibilities.
Become a member today and support your school to safeguard children online through the most effective approach to online safety.
Posted by Molly Hookings