Extremely real: Why live video streaming is dangerous for children

Extremely real: Why live video streaming is dangerous for children

Social networks are increasingly part of our real lives. What began as occasional blog posting became hourly Twitter updates; Instagram photos replaced text updates; and then YouTube vlogs started to gain popularity. Now, the trend is live streaming.

Services such as Periscope and Facebook Live help people share their lives in real time with friends and strangers alike, no need to bother with editing and uploading videos. All you need is a smartphone.

For all their appeal, the services bring more new threats to kids. Cases of kids demonstrating uncharacteristic violence or live-streaming nudity have made headlines. Things a kid might discover among a number of live streams could range from suicides to real-time sexual assaults.

The danger mostly comes from irresponsible users who are fine with exploiting kids’ innocence. Children, given the opportunity to gain instant fame, more likes, and a wider audience (any live stream can be viewed by thousands), can be lured by adults into activities that have undesirable consequences.

Privacy threats

A key safety measure for using social networks is to hide one’s true location and place of residence. However, geolocation can point to one’s current location or the location from which text messages and photos are usually sent. With live steaming, it’s even easier: children can stream as they are going home from school, showing which school they attend, the route they take, and whether they are accompanied on the way.

Moreover, if a kid live streams from home, users chatting with them might ask for a “window view,” or lure a kid into “playing a trick” on someone by calling a phone number (that trick yields the kid’s phone number, of course). This is clearly a privacy threat, as well as a safety compromise. Some people might ask a kid to show them around, gathering information about their home and the family’s likely income level.

Psychological threats

Just like in real world, not all people on Periscope are friendly and benevolent. Unwanted viewers might bully a kid, commenting on their looks, voice, manner of speech, and surroundings. Abusive or explicit messages are not uncommon. With tens of thousands live streams on at any given moment, moderation is practically impossible.

Another relevant problem: Many users stream adult content, which can range from alcohol and drug abuse to nudity and dirty talk. Unfortunately, live streams don’t have any age-based ratings, so even a kid trying to stick to appropriate content might end up watching an undesirable live stream.

Future problems

All live streams become unavailable after a while. However, some users record and store them for later viewing. They have various motives, posting a funny or scandalous video to get likes, for example — or using the material for blackmailing or extortion. The kid’s innocence, clumsiness, or an accidently blurted bad word might result in bullying, threats, and even problems with the school’s management or, later, work applications.

Hungry for attention, even small kids can stream nudity or violence. This has become a hot topic for media, which, in turn, attracts a number of adults to such streams. Never forget that once a video is uploaded to the Internet, it can be very hard to delete — and impossible to erase from history — so one should be very cautious during live streaming.

What to do?

  • Talk to your kid and explain that Periscope, like any other social network, is not a place to spill their private information, or anything else they would not tell or show in public or in front of a stranger.
  • Explain the danger of people who use their online anonymity to deceive others.
  • Use — and help your kid learn about — reporting tools. Every service offers basic protection measures. If a viewer behaves oddly (for example, they leave inappropriate or abusive comments or make weird offers), get that person banned.
  • Disable geolocation.
  • Use a parental control application such as Kaspersky Safe Kids to help identify attempts to install an undesired app. Although social media, including Periscope, restrict children under 12 from registering, their respective apps’ age-based ratings are a lot more moderate, so children can easily install any of them on their mobile device.