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‘Distressing:’ Most young Twitch streamers share personal details | #childpredator | #onlinepredator | #sextrafficing


October 20, 2023

3 min read


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Key takeaways:

  • Most young Twitch streamers share their location or other personal details.
  • The platform should be part of the conversation about social media use, a researcher said.

WASHINGTON — Minors who live stream on Twitch.tv risk being watched and groomed by predators, according to a study presented at the AAP National Conference & Exhibition.

Fiona Dubrosa, BS, BA, said she first thought of the idea for the investigation during her time as a visiting scholar in developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New York while browsing Twitch, a popular live streaming platform for video gamers, one night.





Data derived from Dubrosa F, et al. Predator paradise: Analyzing the ease of accessibility to minors on twitch. Presented at: AAP National Conference & Exhibition; Oct. 20-24, 2023; Washington, D.C.

“As I was scrolling, I saw a kid,” Dubrosa, a JD candidate at the Georgetown School of Law, told Healio. “I don’t even remember how old they must have been, but I instantly saw this really young child streaming live, and it got me thinking, ‘How old do you have to be to stream? What are the policies around children on Twitch?’ It got me more interested in reading our terms and policies and looking at their community guidelines. And from there, I brought it to our team.”

The “team” was the Teen Trends Consortium at Cohen Children’s, a group of 18- to 24-year-old researchers examining the impact of trends on pediatric populations.

“We went onto Twitch.tv, and we searched for popular video games that were hot [and] scrolled to view current live streams that appeared to be conducted by minors,” Dubrosa said. “We only included streamers who had their cameras on and were showing their faces, so we could have a less objective way of assessing whether or not they look underage or not.”

Dubrosa noted that live streamers on Twitch must be aged older than 13 years and have a valid email address or phone number to create their accounts, but there are no restrictions or identification requirements for viewers, and minors can easily communicate with adult followers.

In a sample of 100 minor Twitch streamers with 1,755,452 followers, around half gave their names (47%) or present location (50%), more than a third stated the times they would be streaming live (38%), and most (64%) provided links to other social media. Additionally, 11% of the streamers discussed personal details while live.

Most surprising to Dubrosa was how quickly and easily minors could be found streaming on the site.

“The shortest amount of time to find a minor from logging on to Twitch.tv, pressing a game and scrolling, took 12 seconds to find a child,” Dubrosa said. “Even on the higher end, it took about 5 minutes — or 297 seconds to be exact. It really struck out to me that it is a lot easier to find children than I think any of us anticipated.”

Dubrosa said Twitch’s status as a “niche” platform means “it isn’t necessarily in the social media conversation,” and that caregivers and pediatricians “should be talking more about online safety in regards to live streaming.”

“I feel like when people think of social media, they think of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, but they don’t think of Twitch, which is extraordinarily fair, as it’s a newer platform, it’s more niche,” Dubrosa said. “With that, I think it’s important to have an awareness of Twitch as a platform, in addition to understanding the nature and dangers that come out of live streaming — once you say something, you can’t take it back, and once you do something, you don’t have any time to really think about what you’re doing since it’s live.”

The author added that she and her colleagues intend to continue their investigation, specifically the possibility of children donating to adult streamers without a guardian’s knowledge.

“It’s so easy to exploit people, no matter their age, but especially with this having the live nature of streaming combined with an economic motive to manipulate children,” Dubrosa said. “I think it makes this platform even more distressing.”

References:

Dubrosa F, et al. Predator paradise: Analyzing the ease of accessibility to minors on twitch. Presented at: AAP National Conference & Exhibition; Oct. 20-24, 2023; Washington, D.C.

Live streaming platform ‘Twitch’ poses risks for minors who may be manipulated, preyed upon: New research. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/1004621?adobe_mc=MCM. Published Oct. 20, 2023. Accessed Oct. 20, 2023.


Sources/Disclosures

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Source:

Dubrosa F, et al. Predator paradise: Analyzing the ease of accessibility to minors on twitch. Presented at: AAP National Conference & Exhibition; Oct. 20-24, 2023; Washington, D.C.


Disclosures:
Dubrosa reports no relevant financial disclosures.



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