Image of Livestreaming: What are the Online Risks for Children and Young People?

Livestreaming: What are the Online Risks for Children and Young People?

In this article, safeguarding expert, Lorna Ponambalum, explores livestreaming trends among children and young people and the associated online risks it poses.

What is livestreaming?

Livestreaming, also known as ‘going live’ is the broadcasting of live video over the internet to an audience in real-time.

Unlike video chat services such as Skype, the videos can be watched by many people who can interact with the presenter with comments or reactions. All that is needed is access to the internet, a camera, and a platform (such as a website or app) from which to livestream. Some platforms allow several people to livestream at the same time.

Popular livestreaming platforms include YouTube, TikTok, Facebook Live, Instagram Live, Houseparty, and Twitch TV.

How is livestreaming different from video conferencing?

Video conferencing uses online platforms such as Skype, Microsoft Teams, or Zoom where you livestream in private. It uses livestreaming technology to allow the presenter to talk to people who have been specifically invited using an invite link and password. The passwords should not be shared with people that are not known to the presenter.

Livestreams are usually public and could be viewed by hundreds or even thousands of people. Viewers can comment and interact live by posting messages or emojis that appear alongside the live recording.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed the use of livestreaming in education?

The coronavirus outbreak stopped almost all usual forms of production, events, and human interactions, meaning that everyone had to explore new ways to stay connected and entertained.

Social media became increasingly popular and livestreaming provided everyone with a new way to communicate, share experiences, and develop a sense of community.

Since the first lockdown was announced in March 2020, Ofcom reported that the livestreaming gaming platform Twitch saw visitors increase from 2.3 million in January 2020 to 4.2 million in April 2020.

It also reported that TikTok’s visitors rose to 12.9 million UK visitors in April 2020, up from 5.4 million in January 2020.Even before the pandemic, livestreaming has been particularly popular with children and young people as it gives them an opportunity to be a creator, a presenter, and to be seen by a potentially large audience. Anything can be broadcast live without delay across the world which is why children and young people find it so appealing.

Research into livestreaming habits among young people in 2017 found that one in ten 8–17-year-olds has gone live. The NSPCC also conducted a survey in March 2018 of 40,000 young people aged between 7-16 and found that 24% of all children have delivered a livestream broadcast.

However, subsequent lockdowns as a result of the coronavirus pandemic have meant children and young people have searched for even more innovative ways to communicate and share content with their peers.

Research commissioned as part of Zurich’s Safer Schools initially saw a 17% rise in livestreaming amongst children during the first lockdown with more than one in five ‘broadcasters’ communicating with strangers online.

As schools have now had to move to remote learning for the second time during this pandemic, the use of livestreaming lessons has become more popular as teachers gain more experience and confidence in delivering their teaching online.

What are the online risks of livestreaming?

  • As livestreaming happens in real-time, children may feel pressured to act in a certain way to ensure that viewers keep watching. It can also increase the risk of children acting on impulse.
  • Children may also view age-inappropriate content as well as sexual or violent content particularly if they are watching other people’s livestreams.
  • As most livestreaming is public, anyone can view it and comment. This means that some viewers may leave offensive or inappropriate comments on their feeds.
  • Most people tend to feel more confident when they are online as they feel protected by the screen. Children are more likely to do or say something online that they wouldn’t offline.
  • We also need to be aware of our digital footprint. Anything that a live streamer does or says can be recorded by their viewers and shared more widely across other networks without knowledge or consent.
  • There is also a danger whilst livestreaming that too much personal information could be shared.
  • Livestreaming can result in somebody being watched by hundreds or possibly thousands of viewers. Some of those viewers may be looking to harm or exploit children and young people. They may try to manipulate them into sharing more information about themselves or trick them into doing things that they do not want to do.

Top tips to discuss with students when livestreaming

  • Parents and teachers should talk to children and young people about what they are doing online and how they can keep safe. Make sure that they are aware that they can talk to a trusted adult if they feel worried or upset about something that they have experienced online.
  • Talk to your students about the livestreaming and video apps that they are using. This will help you develop a better understanding of what your students are doing online and why they are doing it.
  • Discuss with your students about the privacy and location settings to help keep them safe.
  • Make them aware of reporting functions to flag up inappropriate conduct online.
  • Discuss with them about the dangers of meeting people online and that some people may want them to move their conversation from a public area to somewhere more private.
  • Encourage your students to ‘go live’ or record any material in public to limit the personal information that they share.
  • If a young person reports to you something concerning, try not to blame them or use leading questions such as ‘Why did you do that?’ Reassure, support and guide them about what to do next.

Top tips for teachers when considering virtual lessons and livestreaming

  • Only use school-registered email accounts, never our personal ones.
  • Make sure that you livestream in a safe and appropriate place where no information relating to you can be revealed.
  • Make sure that you are aware of your school’s safeguarding policy which should also include policies to reflect remote online education.
  • Be cautious when ‘broadcasting’ lessons from real classrooms where there are real children. Think about where you are positioning the camera and microphone.
  • Check the link is private and make sure it is not public for the anyone to view.
  • Decide how many livestream lessons you want to deliver in a week – do not overdo it as it can be counterproductive.
  • Check that your settings have been audited (who can chat? Who can start a stream? Who can join?)
  • If recording the session, make sure that the school’s safeguarding and GDPR policies are followed and that you have parental and student permission to do so.
  • Set your ground rules with students for livestream lessons.
  • Refer to the government guidance on safeguarding and remote education during coronavirus