Esports is never just about playing a game. As we’ve covered in other articles, ,esports is a multimedia industry. Primarily, esports comprises competitive players/student-athletes. But, like the NFL, NBA/WNBA, or WSL, it also utilizes video, streaming, websites, and social media to generate content about the sport.
It is this content that first draws young players to games. Due to the ease of playing and sharing games online, esports content creation is an attractive avenue for kids. It can lead to exposure of their skills, potentially gaining viewership from professional teams.
However, as we all know, with any online interaction, there are risks.
Is Twitch Safe?
As an educator who has worked with students for seven years, I’m always asked if technology is safe. When I first started teaching, I remember a parent asking me if Photoshop was safe. It may seem like a funny question now, but, for a parent, it is their job to question this funny, evolving world.
When technology becomes ubiquitous, the safer it feels in parents’ (and even non-parent) minds. Photoshop was ,released around 1990. After 32 years, we have a societal understanding of what photoshop can and can not do.
But, Twitch is only 12 years old. The platform itself is younger than the age requirement (13 y/o) to make a profile. And YouTube hasn’t even graduated high school yet coming in at 17 years old.
We’re diving into this article under the same unknown premise as a parent. Is Twitch safe? Is YouTube safe? Is TikTok safe? We can’t guarantee the safety of walking across the street as we can on the internet. But, this article will highlight tangible steps you can take to have students watching live and playing live streaming content in a way that is age-appropriate.
Learn the platform
Your child is likely a lot faster than you when navigating ,Twitch, ,YouTube, and ,TikTok. After all, how often does YouTube really need to move the comment section… we keep missing it, too. This is a good thing. Their ability to maneuver social media and tools will set them up for jobs that utilize these platforms.
If your child is beginning to show an interest in creating esports content (or is already posting), it is your responsibility to learn how these platforms work. Not only does it show you’re interested in your child’s passion, but you’ll also be aware of tools such as comment moderation, parent controls, privacy settings, and direct messages.
Below are a couple of excellent posts we recommend if you’re looking to understand the most common streaming platforms used today:
Of course, it is your choice as a parent to decide whether or not you want your child to share videos online. It is important to note that most athletes and professionals gain their skills young. Basketball players who reach the finals often quote the heroes they grew up watching and emulating on the court.
We’ll talk more about privacy next, but if you prefer your child not to have strangers viewing their content, consider having them make and share videos unlisted, that way only friends and family can view the content. That option will still allow young children to feel supported in their passion while gaining technical skills.
Building a Twitch community with boundaries
Remember when we were in school and they told us that when we graduate there will be jobs that don’t exist now. Well, that is happening. Look at the job posting board or Linkedin pages of banks, tech companies, and, yes, video game developers, and you’ll see titles like “Community Manager” or “Community Strategist.” These jobs balance the need for engagement (commenting, viewing, liking, following) across a brand’s content while ensuring the community of fans upholds standards of privacy and appropriate behavior.
As our world becomes increasingly social on-screen, the skills for these jobs are in high demand. Gen Z and the rising Gen A are well-suited for these roles because of their experiences with, you guessed it, the internet (as us elder millennials would say).
Just as parents have a responsibility to learn the platform their child is using for content dissemination, the platform has a responsibility to protect its user. More and more companies are understanding the specific need to protect minors (and adults) from sharing their passions on the internet.
Twitch, for example, is a platform that needs its esports and gaming streamers. ,Video games make up 71% percent of total hours watched on the platform.
If Twitch lost this audience’s trust, they’ll lose the largest sector of their business. It is important to empower children with the belief that they have control of their content and that their platform can support them.
Teaching children to set up their own code of ethics when streaming (i.e. acceptable words/phrases used, their own wardrobe, their tolerance for negative feedback) gives a great baseline to foster a community of viewers that serves their goals and identity. Additionally, it is vital to encourage children to report negative behavior online to an adult and to the platform as soon as it happens. This type of reporting isn’t tattletaling. It is building a community and esports culture that supports all players.
With a degree in English from the University of Hawaiʻi at Manoa (UHM), Tzana Saldania is passionate about science and communication. She is currently the Communications Coordinator for the Center for Advancing Education at Mid-Pacific Institute and has worked as a Research Assistant at the University of Hawaii’s Perception and Attention Psychology Laboratory, aiding in research related to Statistical Learning in video game players.