Get to Know Your Teen: What is Twitch?

Video games today are not what they were 30, 20, or even 10 years ago. Parents used to insist they were a waste of time and that kids needed to get outside and quit spending afternoons in front of a screen. But today the video game industry is worth more than $138 billion and continues to grow every year.1 Top paid competitive video game players – knonw as eSports players – can make millions of dollars from tournament prize money alone.

Now, instead of playing video games themselves, many people prefer to watch others play instead. Streamers, or people who play video games live online, combine playing games with entertaining commentary and interacting with those watching them play. Twitch is one of the original live streaming services that brought streaming video games to the mainstream.

So, what exactly is Twitch?

If you’re a parent, you may already be familiar with the platform. The service draws in adolescents and teenagers the same way Saturday morning cartoons did in the 70s, 80s, and 90s. Twitch can be a great source of entertainment for young people in some ways –  but not all aspects of streaming are positive.

This article will help you learn more about Twitch, how your kids use it, and what you can do to help them foster a reasonable relationship with the platform.

What is Twitch?

Twitch is a live streaming service that gives people a platform where they can broadcast to a global audience. It was founded in 2011 as a way for players to allow others to watch them play video games live online. The service amassed 45 million unique monthly viewers in 2013 before selling to Amazon.

Some of the top games streamed on Twitch include:

  • League of Legends
  • VALORANT
  • Grand Theft Auto
  • Apex Legends
  • Minecraft
  • Dota 2
  • World of Warcraft
  • Hearthstone
  • Call of Duty: Warzone

While video games make up the majority of streams on Twitch, the platform has expanded in the years since its introduction to include a broad range of activities outside video games.

Some of the non-video game-related streaming categories include:

  • Just chatting
  • Sports
  • Slots/gambling
  • Music
  • Chess
  • Asmr
  • Art
  • Food & drink
  • Politics
  • Talk shows & podcasts

There are over 9 million active channels on Twitch to date.2 More than 15 million users access the service each day, and 140 million unique visitors watch streams on the platform every month. Together, Twitch users rack up a total of 70 million hours of stream views per day. Chances are your teen likely contributes to some of these statistics.

What do teens do on Twitch?

One of the greatest draws of Twitch is its capacity to build small communities. People can not only search for games they enjoy, but also search for streamers who make watching games entertaining. Twitch also offers a live chat feature where viewers can interact with the streamer and with each other, creating a sense of community between the streamer and their audience, and between the audience members themselves.

Why do teens use Twitch?

Teenagers use Twitch for various reasons. Some enjoy watching high-level players playing their favorite games. Others use it to discover new games they might be interested in. But most teens use Twitch as a way to foster and build community. They find a group of people interested in the same games and entertainment and settle into that pocket of the internet.

What are the benefits of Twitch?

When used properly Twitch is another avenue for entertainment. Most of the content found on Twitch is harmless, and similar to a typical social media feed. It offers a more engaging alternative to YouTube videos, live sports, or television. Teenagers can use it to find communities of people online who share similar interests. Some can also use it as a platform to launch a successful streaming or eSports career.

Are there any drawbacks to using Twitch?

Unfortunately, there are some negative aspects of Twitch. For example, parents might be uncomfortable with some of the games streamed on the service. Video games have ratings similar to movies. Video games mirror the G – PG13 – R rating system with ratings like E for Everyone, T for Teens (13+), and M for Mature (17+). Twitch allows its users to stream some M-rated games which may expose your teenager to things like violence, blood, language, and sexual content.

Twitch also has a problem with sexual harassment in the gaming community. Allegations from some female users have led to the permanent suspension of some streamers over the years.3 While Twitch works to keep harmful users off its service, the volume of users makes it difficult to catch every inappropriate user quickly.

The chat feature can be another source of concern for some parents. Most big-name streamers employ moderators on their channels to keep chats clean and users from bullying each other. Smaller streams may not have the same types of moderation in place, though, which means the chat windows/apps associated with some streams may contain questionable, unmoderated content.

Tips to Keep Your Kid Safe on Twitch

The downsides of Twitch might seem like a good reason to keep your child from using the platform. However, an all-out ban may not be the best approach to the problem. Thankfully, the same technology that brings capabilities like live streaming video games also allows you to limit what your child is exposed to.

Here are some things you can do to keep your kids safe when they use Twitch:

Update Parental Controls

Twitch offers a variety of parental controls that allow you to set limits on what your child can do within the platform. Sit with your child as they set up their account and make use of the various parental controls that Twitch offers.

Restrict Mature Content

Twitch allows you to restrict accounts from viewing mature content. If you’re concerned about the streams your teen watches, set their account up to restrict them from mature content on their feeds.

Use Chat Filters

Chat filters are a great way to make up for lack of moderation on the smaller streams. Account settings allow you to use chat filters to hide unwanted words or messages to your teen’s account.

Have a Conversation

The best way to keep your kids safe on Twitch is to talk with them. It might seem difficult but maintaining open communication with your children is the most effective approach to addressing and resolving any problems. Ask about what draws them to Twitch. Be interested. Get involved. Express your concerns about the platform and give them space to share their point of view.

Final Verdict

Twitch can be a great service when used properly. Allow your teen the opportunity to use it effectively and let them know you only want what’s best for them. By communicating openly with your child, you decrease the chances of them feeling like they need to hide things, whether that’s on their Twitch account or in other areas of life.

References

  1. Statista. (2021). Value of the global video games market from 2012 to 2021.
  2. Launchkit.io. (2022). Twitch Statistics: Users, Usage Stats & Earnings.
  3. The Verge. (2020). Twitch Reckons with Sexual Assault as It Begins Permanently Suspending Streamers.