When Meerkat developers announced they were closing the app down, it looked as if the world had had enough of live streaming apps. Far from it. The latest trend is every social media having their very own tool for live streaming. Indeed, Facebook has Facebook Live, Google has Hangouts, Twitter owns Periscope now, and even Instagram is launching live streaming feature. There are also some stand-alone live-streaming apps: YouNow, Live.ly, UStream, etc. They have already built up a broad audience – and most of them are teens. What is so good about live streaming? Most importantly, what is bad? Here are the things that parents should know about live-streaming apps.
Why Teens and Tweens Love Them
Playing Stars and Fans. These apps put teens under the spotlight. Children turn their bedrooms into their little private studios, where they give interviews and answer fans’ questions. Most of them seek validation in this way. Younger kids just play pretending. Digital media made getting famous easier than ever. No wonder teens want to give it a shot.
Building Following. However, it is not all just games. Some teens seriously consider a possibility to become an Internet celebrity, so they use this channel to show off their talents and win fans. It is more relevant to aspiring showbiz stars – they sing, dance, do magic tricks and try stand-up comedy. You may come across some amazingly gifted kids there (or immensely charismatic – it is hard to tell).
Peeping on their idols. They love watching concerts, backstage broadcasts, and exclusive streams by stars, too. Although, it would not be much different from the TV – so a chance to become stars themselves is a huge contributing factor. Alas, too many of the wannabe celebrities only make it only as far as FailArmy Channel on YouTube. Their compilations are packed with teens attempting to impress the viewers and ending up mortified.
Having Fun. Mostly, however, they just hangout and broadcast it to have more fun while sharing. For them, it is like hosting an online party – trouble-free, yet still exciting.
Why They Can Be Dangerous
Revealing their location. Make sure your child disables the geotagging feature. It’s not as innocent as it may seem. You spying on your kids’ iPhone using iCloud to track your child’s whereabouts is one thing. Random strangers knowing how your son or daughter looks like and where to find them is quite another matter – and a very disturbing one. If your kid streams regularly, with each broadcast they build up a profile: their address, their friends’ places, favourite spots to hang out, the school they attend, even their schedule and routes.
Blabbing out private information and embarrassing secrets. Kids willingly answer any questions their friends and occasional creepy viewers ask them. After all, that is the whole point: stars giving the interview, remember? There are channels (such as #truthordare on YouNow) that are specifically created to answer awkward questions and do embarrassing things on demand.
Exposure to harmful content. No one can moderate the live stream, except for the broadcaster. Therefore, if someone out there decides to broadcast something shocking and obscene, there is no way of filtering it – your kid can stumble across these things and see them.
Grooming. One of the things that make live streaming apps so enticing for teens is their ranking system, where you can get upvotes, presents and even money if the audience likes you. Predators abuse the system to flatter children and encourage them to strip and do other inappropriate things on camera.
Bullying. While kids often go for live streaming to boost their self-esteem, it may go horribly wrong. Anonymous viewers can leave ugly comments and schoolmates may later mock the broadcaster on his or her unfortunate fails.
It is not all doom and gloom about live streaming. They are great tools to be creative and have fun together. Make sure, however, that your child takes all necessary precautions. They must also be mature enough to face certain downsides of public exposure. Adding them and occasionally watching their broadcasts would not hurt as well. After all, you are their perfect fan!