WASHINGTON – Half of youth broadcasting live streams on the online platform Twitch revealed their real-world location, and nearly half provided their name to viewers, according to research presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics. It took researchers less than 5 minutes – and sometimes as little as 12 seconds – to find minors in different video game categories, suggesting the environment offers opportunities to predators to gain sensitive information about minors, reported Fiona Dubrosa, BS, BA, a visiting scholar at Cohen Children’s Medical Center, New York, and colleagues.
A ‘clandestine, threatening digital environment’
“Twitch represents a clandestine, threatening digital environment where minors are interacting with adult strangers without parental supervision,” the authors concluded. “The nature of live streaming makes it particularly dangerous, as there is no way to take back information that has been revealed or regulate content or viewers. Parents and pediatricians should be aware of the dangers presented by Twitch and other live-streaming platforms and counsel children on best practices for Internet safety.”
Twitch is an online streaming platform where people can watch creator’s live content, such as music performances or narrating real-time video game playing. The platform requires live streamers to be 13 years old with a valid email address or phone number to create an account, but no age restrictions or identification requirements exist for viewers, “potentially putting minors in danger of being watched, followed, and groomed by predators,” the researchers noted. They added that people following different streamers receive notifications when those streamers are live. Further, “viewers can donate money to streamers, which can make it easier for predators to manipulate, track, and encourage risky behaviors from minors.”
To better understand the risks the platform might pose to minors, the researchers searched for and analyzed popular video game live streams that appeared to be streamed by minors who had their cameras on and their faces visible. Then the researchers noted the name of the video game, the topics discussed by the streamers, the time it took to find minors under each game, and each streamer’s age, name, follower count, location, streaming schedule, and social media links for money donations.
The researchers analyzed 100 Twitch streamers who were minors, who had a combined 1,755,452 million followers. Nearly half the streamers (47%) provided their presumably real names, and half (50%) gave out their location. Nearly two-thirds (64%) linked other social media accounts they had and encouraged viewers to follow them. Detailed schedules of when they would be live were available for 38% of the streamers, and 37% of the minor streamers were accepting money donations.
Only 11% of the discussion on the streams revealed personal details, most often related to trying on different outfits for viewers and talking about real-world locations they liked to visit. The researchers needed anywhere from 12 seconds to 5 minutes to find a minor in each game category.
“Young users clearly feel a false sense of safety on the platform; a significant proportion were willing to reveal personal information despite having no knowledge of who might be listening,” the researchers said. “The donation system provides a menacing avenue for manipulation and continued exploitation of minors. Our findings reveal the need for stricter age limitations for streamers and more stringent identity verification of audience members on Twitch.”
Open-minded parental guidance is warranted
Jenny Radesky, MD, a developmental behavioral pediatrician and media researcher at University of Michigan Medicine, Ann Arbor, was not surprised that many teens live stream on Twitch since it’s a popular platform for video gaming, but she was surprised at how many revealed their locations and other personal details.
“I suspect that they do this to build closeness with their viewers, by seeming more authentic,” said Dr. Radesky, who was not involved in the study. “It is this type of parasocial relationship with influencers and gamers that keeps an audience engaged, and encourages future viewing and purchases.”
Their willingness to share personal details suggests it’s important to conduct qualitative research to find out how teen live streamers think about privacy risks, what privacy settings they can use and choose to use, and how they handle inappropriate contact from adults, Dr. Radesky said.
Meanwhile, parents should talk with their kids in an open-minded way about what platforms they use and what they like and dislike about them. She recommended parents read the Common Sense Media guide about different social platforms “to understand what attracts kids to content on specific sites, what their pitfalls are, and what types of privacy and safety settings are available.”
“A child or teen is much more likely to be honest about negative experiences online if they think their parent will hear them out – not judge them or take away their tech. No teen wants to talk with a panicky parent,” Dr. Radesky said.
David Hill, MD, a hospitalist pediatrician for Goldsboro Pediatrics in Wayne County, North Carolina, who also specializes in media communication, said that Twitch is just one example of a social media platform where children can encounter a variety of dangers, including sometimes adult predators.
“This just highlights the importance of parents having an ongoing conversation with their children about how they use their social media platforms and ensuring, just as we do with learning to ride a bicycle or learning to drive a car, that they apply some basic rules of safety,” Dr. Hill said. Then it’s important to keep coming back to that conversation “again and again as they grow and change and as those platforms change to ensure that those kids are continuing to apply those rules consistently.
“The best way for parents to keep up is ask your kids,” he said. “They love to share. They love to teach. They love to be in a position to show you something, especially if it’s something that interests them.”
An example of a rule would be setting personal accounts to private, not public, by default, Dr. Radesky said. “When interviewed, teens often say that they feel intruded upon by older people ‘stalking’ them or trying to connect with them on social platforms,” so making an account private can reduce those opportunities.
For teens who specifically want to create content on social platforms, parent oversight is needed, she said, but she acknowledged it can be a lot of work. “This might take the form of talking about what a teen plans to post before they do, expectations for positive behaviors or language, plans for privacy settings (such as public vs. private accounts), and what to do with trolls or hateful comment,” she said. “Parents may want to follow their child’s account to check in on it.”
Dr. Radesky also provided a handful of talking points that pediatricians can use in talking with patients who use these platforms:
Keep your account private to just your friends and people you want to interact with. There are a lot of people on the Internet that you don’t want intruding upon your social life.
Maintain your feed and the accounts you follow to keep it positive, entertaining, and not a source of stress or self-doubt. Content creators are always trying to grab your attention in new ways, some of which are rude or dehumanizing, so don’t waste your time on things that bring you down.
Talk about why you want to post or live stream. Is it to get reactions or feel validated? If so, can you find other ways to feel validated that don’t require performing for other people? Is it to share a special skill? If so, how do you keep your posts creative and community building rather than attention grabbing? And how can you keep your parents involved so that they can help you navigate challenges?”
Ms. Dubrosa and Dr. Hill had no disclosures. Dr. Radesky is a consultant for Melissa & Doug. No information on external funding was provided.
This story originally appeared on MDedge.com, part of the Medscape Professional Network.
Source link : https://www.medscape.com/s/viewarticle/998054?src=rss
Publish date : 2023-11-03 13:52:00
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