live video streaming apps

Periscope, Meercat: how safe are live video streaming apps for kids?

Filming ourselves and uploading, creating short movies and recording interviews, speeches and conversations for all to view has been going on for a while now. On Youtube alone 300 hours of video are uploaded every single second. Thats nearly 2 weeks worth of viewing every single second! But now we are dealing with a whole different beast. Live streaming of video is fast taking over as the popular medium of connecting with others.  Essentially we are able to press record and allow the whole world a real time view of whatever it is we are doing.

Skype and Facetime were the early live video streaming platforms that allowed people to talk, and be seen in real time. This opened the way for video conferencing, dads on business trips able to read a goodnight story to their toddlers and grandmas overseas watching their grandchild take their first steps. And now, we have Perisope and Meercat who have joined older platforms such as Younow and Oovoo, reigniting this new means of communication. These latest advances in technology, once again offer up new ways to connect, be entertained, get a message out there, get a different view of the world or simply ogle the mundane, everyday of someones life.

The real time streaming of events, speeches, concerts, launches and sporting events adds to the very ‘now’, very ‘switched on mentality of our always connected lives.  It can also be seen as the biggest threat to regular broadcasting to date. But what about our kids? Are they safe hanging out, watching and participating with live video streaming?

How does live video streaming work?

The new live video streaming apps such as Persicope and Meerkat, allow uses to film themselves anywhere at anytime and choose an audience, or not, to view their live video. Those watching, then have the ability to ask questions to the videographer which in turn appear on the screen and can be answered almost instantaneously. Some video can be shown only for the time it is live, others can be kept up for a period of time or replayed at a later date.

What are the risks to live video streaming?

Obviously if we are seeing things in real time there is always the chance that you will be watching unregulated and completely inappropriate material. Whilst most sites have terms fo service to prevent pornography etc, one doesn’t need to search very hard to stumble upon questionable material. So whilst it is possible to block certain accounts, we know that once seen, images cannot be unseen.

There is also the element of ‘not permanent’ that can be both appealing and concerning. Like Snapchat, where photos supposedly self destruct and are therefore not a permanent record, these video streaming apps may also give that same false sense of security, thus ensuring more risque behaviours. Just as with Snapchat, things can be screenshot and other apps exist out there, to bring an image back to life.

What is the verdict for kids?

There are some real benefits to this type of viewing. We may be taken on a live tour of the Louvre, watch feeding time in an African safari park, or engage in a question and answer session with a favourite celebrity, quiz an expert in any field or question the motives of our local politician. We may also watch people sleep (yes it happens), view pornography, watch a schoolyard fight or reveal way too much skin and vulnerability to a creep that is ready to pounce. Like all technology it can be used in amazing ways that enhance, connect and teach in fascinating and engaging ways. But we can also be privy to the banal & narcissistic, the predatory, the inappropriate and the violent.

As with most apps the terms of service state that kids should be 13. Once again a quick search finds many on these apps who are clearly much younger.

So what do parents need to be aware of with these apps and how the world and possibly their kids will be using them?

We need to have these regular reminders

  • We need young people to be aware of their audience. Be sure that if you are opening yourself up to the rest of the world, you are then opening yourself up to all the crazies, the bored, the hateful, those not telling the truth and those with unsavoury intentions.
  • We need to be prepared that not all will be kind with their comments and questions
  • We need to remember that everything we do online can be saved and traced and there is no such thing as ‘disintegrating’ or ‘deleting’ online.
  • We need to be sure we are always presenting the very best version of ourselves and being conscious of our digital footprint
  • We need to constantly remind ourselves that if there is anyone in the world we don’t want to see what we are streaming, then we don’t press record.

Like most aspects of this connected world there are some fabulous benefits that come with the advances in technology but they don’t come without risk and sometimes devastating consequences. As parents we need to continue to be aware of what is out there for our kids, shield them from what we can whilst they are young, but most importantly, teach them the right behaviours to be safe and smart wherever they find themselves online.

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