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Twitch: everything you need to know about the live-streaming site

What is Twitch?

Twitch is one of the world’s most popular live-streaming services. In 2017, the site attracted more than 15 million unique visitors a day and had over 2 million unique broadcasters who were watched for a combined 355 billion minutes. There has been no end to the overwhelming success of the site in 2018 either, with streamer of the moment, Ninja, smashing live-streaming records. First, alongside the rapper Drake in April of this year, he smashed the record for most simultaneous viewers to a single stream with 635,000 viewers. Then, only a few weeks later, he broke this record with 667,000 viewers to a stream of him playing at an eSports event in Las Vegas.

Are there any age restrictions?

Twitch is not available to those under the age of 13. Young people aged between 13 and 18 may only use Twitch if their parent or guardian agrees to Twitch’s terms of service. These terms of service can be found here. Twitch does not offer a filtered service, comparable to YouTube Kids, nor tools with which parents can limit a child’s viewing time or the number of channels they can watch. Twitch streamers who deem their content inappropriate to younger audiences can enable content warnings on their streams.

Are there parental controls?

Twitch does not provide any parental controls and prohibits those aged under 13 from using its services.

However, for parents who allow their children to use Twitch, there are a few measures which can be taken to protect them whilst they use the site. This is done by enabling the PIN function, a secondary password which your child should not know, which allows a user to make protected changes to the privacy features of an account. These changes include disabling messages and ‘whispers’ from strangers. A whisper is a live-chat with a specific user separate from the global chat.

Why is Twitch and live-streaming in general so popular?

Twitch and live-streaming bring gamers and content creators together with their fans. There is no fancy post-production video editing nor censoring of language in heated moments of frustration on live-streams. The reactions of both creator and fan alike are all live and all the more intense for it.

This relationship is also cultivated by creators in their call-outs of fans and subscribers who interact, often at some financial cost, with their stream. The buzz of having your favourite streamer call you out to thousands of other fans has been compared to the warm high of seeing your name pop up on a charity telethon. This simple act is big business for some streamers, causing some media outlets to question the integrity of such tactics.

Twitch subscriptions, donations and ‘bits’

Despite the negative attention, viewers clearly love this in-the-moment engagement with content creators and are happy to pay top dollar for it. Twitch offers single-channel subscriptions of $4.99, $9.99, and $24.99 per month (prices are converted to pounds in the UK upon payment via PayPal). Each level offers more and more lorded emoticons giving their user greater recognition on stream. 

Streamers on Twitch can also set up donation buttons for viewers to tip them as they stream. Often when donations occur through these buttons, designed by PayPal for charities and NGOs, animations will temporarily appear on stream and the streamer will usually call out the donator and read out any message that accompanies the donation. A thrill for many who chose to donate. These donations can range in value from a few pounds to many thousands and often viewers compete to see who can donate the most so that their name appears permanently on the screen as the top donator.

In addition, Twitch has now introduced bits which viewers can use to cheer on their favourite streamers who are partnered with Twitch. Each bit is worth 1.4 cents and a streamer will receive one cent of that when users cheer them on. The more bits donated the more elaborate the emoticon displayed on stream. Thus, greater recognition is given to larger donations. Bits are currently only available through online purchases with 500 bits being worth $8.40. However, Twitch hopes that in the future bits will be earned through a variety of activities on the site.

What do parents need to know?

The common theme in all donations is that the more spent the more elaborate the animation, emoji or shout out that the viewer receives is. The subscription system on Twitch works in such a way that both for the streamers and the subscribers the more money the former receives, or the latter donates, the more emojis there are available to them. The system is designed as such in order to entice the viewer to donate more and more. Parents can encourage their children to appreciate it and make sure that they do not allow their children access to their credit card details without their permission.

However, that is not to say that content creators, much of whose content is available for free, should not receive remuneration but rather it is best if donation and payments are done responsibly. Besides supporting the creative industry, allowing children to support their favourite streamers with their own pocket money can be a great way of giving them a greater sense of independence. 

Twitch Chat

Each stream on Twitch has a live-chat, in which viewers can discuss and react to the stream. These chats are mostly moderated by users, who have been chosen by the streamer, who remove inappropriate or unwanted comments. Streamers can also ban hyperlinks and language they deem inappropriate. Despite these precautions, young people using Twitch may still be exposed to language or behaviour that parents may deem inappropriate. Therefore, it is important that parents make their children aware of this and show them how to report users and behaviour they are uncomfortable with. Information on this can be found on Twitch’s support website here.

Last updated: June 2018 

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