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Online safety: How to make live streaming safer

Find out how to make online live streaming a safer activity for children and read how to educate them on the risks.

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Live streaming — a visual online broadcast — has become a mainstream social activity among teens and tweens. With the proliferation of mobile phones in schools and the popularity of platforms like Live.ly, YouNow, Hype and Live.Me, social media giants like Facebook, Instagram and video streaming sites like YouTube are capitalising on the live streaming trend.

There’s an addictive quality to live streaming among young adults — the rawness, the intimacy with celebrities, the immediacy. But the very intimacy and immediacy that make the medium attractive are also the things that make it almost impossible to police. Unlike asynchronous networks like Twitter and Facebook, live content does not get shared and spread; the audience sees the content, sometimes graphic, the moment it goes live. While this can be unsettling for teachers, carers and parents, there are a few steps that you can take to make a child’s online experience safer. Here’s what to know about online safety around live streaming:

Identify which apps are riskier

Just as young vloggers have become famous on YouTube, celebrities exist in the live streaming world. Children follow them, tune in to watch them, and can even make online donations. Teenagers are making money and getting famous just by hosting live streams of themselves.

Facebook, Instagram and YouTube all feature the ability to broadcast live to followers, although there’s very limited interactivity. For most apps, this is an ‘anything goes’ area; children might get feedback they weren’t ready for, or even bullying comments. In a bid to win approval, children might share personal information or do things they wouldn’t otherwise.

YouNow is a popular gathering place for young adults, with its own celebrities and culture, but with more stringent filters there’s little mature content.

Hype, from the creators of Twitter-owned Vine, lets users add music, images and video to streams. The potential pitfall is that if a user logs in with a Facebook account, the Facebook profile name will appear, which is often someone’s full name.

Live.Me is another one-way live streaming site, but there’s a more mature flavour to the site with less regulation around content. Overall, it’s a riskier choice for young adults.

Build confidence in children

There are some tangible benefits to the live streaming when correctly regulated and used responsibly. Through live streaming, users have the opportunity to connect, educate, inform and inspire people all over the world on topics they have an expertise or interest in. It can build confidence in camera-shy children.

However, much of the concern around oversharing and inappropriate behaviour stems from a lack of confidence in young adults. Issues such as low self-esteem and an inability to identify or deflect manipulation can make children and young people particularly vulnerable when live broadcasting.

Craft school or home activities focused on building confidence and self-esteem in children, how to identify negative attention when live streaming, and what children can do online and offline to seek more positive affirmation.

For teacher resources on educating primary and secondary children on this topic, visit Thinkuknow.

Outline the importance of privacy

In the ‘real world’, children are taught safe practices on who to speak to and who to share information with. In the online world, however, children are given less guidance, often perceiving their remoteness or anonymity from people as a layer of protection.

What’s more, young people are generally taught to follow adult instructions. From teachers to parents, most young people are socialised to accept adults authority. Some offenders rely on this acceptance and use young people’s trust to manipulate them.

Encourage digital literacy by helping children identify trusted sources and places they should be more cautious. Reinforce the idea that, on the Internet, adults should not be giving young people instructions or telling them what to do.

For more rigorous online safety, parents or teachers might want to go through the settings on each live streaming app, check it’s only friends that can access their content and be aware who can to view it. Teach children how to create unique usernames based on non-personal information to preserve their identity online.

Explain where to go for support

Children can sometimes feel partly to blame or guilty if something goes wrong while live streaming or sharing information online. Reinforce the message to children that it is never their fault if they are approached inappropriately, that they can always speak to an adult they trust if they are worried, no matter what may have happened.

Thinkuknow has a published a pack of resources for teachers called #LiveSkills, all focused on the educating children on risks of live streaming and promoting online safety. The content explores the nuanced features of streaming apps and the specific risks children can face with increased use of mobile phones in schools and at home.

The content covers topics such as offender tactics, ways to develop digital literacy in children, and building resilience and confidence in young adults. The pack contains guidance on delivering session and includes session plans, presentations, printable resources, factsheets for educators and parents.