As a Mum to four children, Laura Hitchcock knows the world of online streaming only too well.
“I have four children aged between 11 and 19, and my oldest was playing Minecraft when it was some weird free game in beta,” explains Laura. “I have to keep up with them. If I understand what they’re doing then I can be confident on how safe they are.”
Managing videos they watch by age
This understanding means Laura feels confident that her children are safe when they’re streaming content online, or watching streams. “By streaming they are no more exposed than if they are playing on public game servers, or posting to their own YouTube channel. We discuss what may occur, how to handle it, and then keep an eye on their activity.”
This monitoring is different depending on the child’s age. Laura tends to leave her 16 and 19 year old to their own devices, while her 11 year old daughter isn’t allowed to add friends to Skype or Discord (a free online chat platform for gamers) without my knowledge.”
Keeping an eye while their live streaming
Laura also watches her daughter’s live streams on her own computer, just to be safe. “It’s mostly just her drawing, so it sits in the background,” she says.
For Laura and her husband, streaming is just another part of online life – and subject to the same sort of rules. At the heart of the family’s philosophy is having open, frequent conversations. “Even when they were little, we had regular chats about the house rules, no personal information to be shared, what pictured could be posted, what the risks were around bullying, grooming, and so on,” she explains.
The positive impact of live streaming
Rather than worrying, Laura thinks streaming can have positive effects for children. “It’s simply another tool in their digital arsenal, it has no more impact on family life than gaming. And they see streamers making a living from it, although their emphasis now is all on fun and enjoyment.”
Laura urges other parents to consider allowing their children to live stream. “Be sure to talk it through and make sure you understand why your child wants to stream,” she advises. “Teach your child about safety until it’s as second nature as putting on a seatbelt in the car. And then trust them.”