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A Parent Guide to Twitch
Gaming has changed a lot since I began gaming in 2002. According to venturebeat.com, over 1.2 billion people game globally, making it a multi-billion dollar industry.
I got my first PlayStation for Christmas when I was six, and over the years, a pastime has turned into my hobby.
When I began, online gaming predominately took place in a basement on a Saturday night with friends and plenty of Mountain Dew. Instead of watching tutorials on YouTube to figure out how to beat that troublesome level, we had to try and try again until we beat it. Gaming was much simpler, and a person’s friend group was their gaming community.
Streaming apps have also become creative hubs for games like Minecraft by allowing people to get ideas for their digital creations. Through the advent of streaming and archiving footage of gaming on YouTube, young gamers have a huge advantage when it comes to resources they can draw from to improve their level of gaming.
A Parent Guide to Twitch
This guide will be covering the popular gaming app Twitch, which has become a powerhouse in the world of streaming. I will show you how to set up a Twitch account, and I will go over some of the aspects of Twitch that parents should know.
But first, what is streaming?
Streaming is the ability of a player to broadcast their gameplay to an audience in real-time. Streaming has become a form of media for gamers, since professional gaming competitions are often streamed via Twitch.
Streaming has also allowed gamers to gain income from their hobby through donations and subscriptions to channels. A popular streamer can sometimes make upwards of $100,000 per year if they have a large enough following. This is crowdfunding at its finest, and there is no better place for crowdfunding than the gaming community.
In the parent realm, there seems to be two schools of thought on gaming. The first is that gaming is bad for kids and it makes them violent. The other is a much more free-spirited school of thought, in which parents want their kids to be able to be creative and enjoy the art that is game development.
Parents have very mixed reviews about Twitch. Many of the parenting websites like protectyoungeyes.com rate Twitch as a 13+ (min. age for Twitch anyway) app due to the profanity that is present on many channels. Twitch does not provide a “kid-friendly” version, and allows all users to view streams of Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty, Counter-Strike, and Arma III.
There are ways to hide the chat portion; however, you are still at the mercy of the streamer with regards to profanity. Nevertheless, many streamers will ban watchers for things like racial slurs and spamming the chat.
I hope you find this Parent Guide to Twitch helpful. I fully believe that it is within the discernment of the parent to decide if their child is ready for Twitch, whether or not their kid is above the minimum age to make an account. So, let’s dive into Twitch, and see the different aspects of this app in detail.
Setting Up an Account
Setting up an account on Twitch is almost mind-numbingly easy. There are a few basic criteria that need to be filled out. Twitch requires a username (created by the user), a password (created by the user), email, and age. There is no email verification sent at the time of setup, so anyone can input any email and gain access to Twitch, if the email is valid.
I personally do not condone lying about one’s age online, but if your 12-year-old has an email, they can easily make a Twitch account without you knowing.
Once you enter Twitch, there is a main dashboard that is very easy to navigate. On the far left (the grey bar), you have your followed channels. These are channels that you like to watch, and will usually only stream one type of game, i.e. Minecraft, Call of Duty, Counter-Strike, etc. You can get notifications when these streamers are online so you can watch them.
To the right of the grey bar, you have the main dashboard. This offers recommendations for channels to follow, special events like PokemonGo Fest, and the top trending games that people are watching. Trending games are determined by viewership, so the more people who are watching, the higher on the trending list it goes.
The top purple bar has your basic navigation tools like “Following,” “Browse,” “Mobile” (provides info on the mobile app), and “Try Prime.” On the far right of the purple bar is your account information and notifications.
Scroll down on the dashboard and you’ll find tournaments and the games that have the most viewers.
Twitch Prime has some neat rewards, if you’re willing to pay the $10.99 per month. You get Amazon Prime when you sign up for Twitch Prime, which is cool. You also get ad-free viewing (since there are ads like YouTube ads on Twitch), and “loot boxes” that give you free DLC for games such as skins, weapons, and upgrades. Twitch Prime is good for avid gamers who like to get DLC to customize characters in their games.
The browse function of Twitch is very basic. It provides a library of games to choose from (including M-rated titles). It shows how many people are watching the titles, so you can get an idea of what is trending in the game world. Once clicked on, you will be able to choose from multiple streams listed in order of viewership.
These streams have no “family-friendly” rating system, so it’s pretty much rolling the dice on a streamer if you’re looking for something clean.
Every person who has a Twitch account can stream their games on Twitch to an audience. This is what gives Twitch that “community” I mentioned earlier. Twitch is a great way to break into the streaming world, for those who want to try it out.
The drop-down menu, where your username is displayed, is where you go to configure your stream settings. (Since this is not an article about streaming, I will not go in depth about these settings.) The user menu or account settings don’t do anything in the way of parental controls, or give the ability to choose title ratings that you wish your child to view.
The AutoMod allows streamers to view “risky messages” before they are sent into the chat, but watchers have no control over what comes through on the chat. Therefore, it’s important to find family-friendly streamers prior to letting kids watch Twitch.
Watching a Stream
People mostly use Twitch to watch live streams. Live streams offer live chat, donation options, and the ability to subscribe or follow. They also have rules for the chat like no racial slurs, no spamming, etc. Overall, my experience on Twitch has been relatively positive, with most of the profanity coming from the streamers, not their fans.
There is no need to say that if you jump into an M-rated title stream, there will be adult content on display. Many of the streamers use a variety of words and exclamations to colorfully describe the intensity in the game. However, not all streamers are like this, and it is best to keep an open mind, especially with games like Minecraft.
If you are looking for a “family-friendly” streamer, give Soaryn a watch. He is a non-profane gamer, whose fan base appreciates his lack of curse words. On top of his clean vocabulary, Soaryn is also an amazing Minecraft player. His chat does not feature the four-letter words that generally are associated with online gaming, and his chat rules clearly set the tone for his stream.
I watched his stream for about an hour, and I could not find one curse word or argument in the chat. Soaryn keeps it clean and simple.
You may have to hunt down some family-friendly streamers if you wish to allow your 10-year-old to view Twitch, but in my mind, the cost vs. reward of finding a reserved Twitch streamer is well worth the search. Personally, I do not favor profanity; I find that it exhibits a lack of creativity and intellect in a person. Therefore, I look for streamers who display maturity and self-control while gaming.
In the chat on any stream, you have the option to hide the chat in this pop-up box in the settings. This is a great option if you do not want chat coming through. This was taken while viewing a stream of Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor, a Lord of the Rings game I play regularly.
Twitch has pushed the gaming community further than many people thought it would go. The gaming community is perhaps one of the most supportive groups of people that I have ever been exposed to.
However, support does not mean clean. Twitch has no parental control settings, they have no kid version of the site, and they do not require any email verification for setting up an account. They also lack age-minimums on M-rated titles like Grand Theft Auto.
With a little Google work and some search engine know-how, it is very easy to find family-friendly Twitch streams. I would recommend that parents assist their kids in making a Twitch account. Lay down rules that are mutually agreed upon. Make a “Twitch Contract” that states the amount of time they may watch, and mutually agreed streamers they can watch.
The whole key is that your kid agrees to the “Terms and Conditions” of your household. Make a Terms and Conditions that they agree to, and put it on the fridge, so they can use it for reference.
Also, I encourage parents to take an interest in their kids’ gaming. Watch streams with your kids, open a Twitch account and play Minecraft with your child. Not only can it be a bonding experience for both of you, but it can also be a creative outlet for the parent.
Gaming is for all ages, and the sooner we get parents on board with gaming and streaming, the more the community will grow.