Table of contents
1. What is Twitch and how does it work?
New technologies are increasingly monopolizing the entertainment sector and new digital trends are aimed at offering increasingly real experiences, reaching a wider audience and creating communities in which to share hobbies.
The platforms that offer this type of possibilities are multiplying and, among them, Twitch is undoubtedly one of the ones that has achieved the greatest popularity in recent months.
In fact, Twitch is the most used live streaming platform in the world at the moment and is especially focused on the broadcasting of live video games, eSports streaming, and other content such as music, lifestyle and events.
Since 2014, Twitch has belonged to the company Amazon Inc. and is the direct competitor of another very popular platform: YouTube.
Twitch content can be viewed live or on demand, and millions of people gather on the platform every day to interact in different ways.
In relation to the profile of the users, two-thirds are men and about 35% are women. By age, the profile is mostly that of a teenager between 15 and 25 years old, and the average daily vision of its users is about 95 minutes.
On Twitch, followers can connect with streamers (content transmitters) and interact with them through chat.
Twitch can be accessed from any computer, mobile device or consoles such as the Xbox and PlayStation and has applications for both iOS and Android.
One of the characteristics of this platform is that monetization, that is, the possibility of earning money based on the activity developed through the platform, is feasible without a minimum of subscribers, unlike for example YouTube, which seems to have become an incentive for the youngest, who see Twitch as a possibility to earn money quickly and easily.
Twitch money is called a bit. This kind of coin allows users, for example, to buy emoticons and obtain recognition emblems.
As a curiosity during the second quarter of 2020, at the time when the confinement due to the pandemic was spreading throughout the planet, Twitch grew by about 56% in relation to the total hours consumed, reaching five billion hours between the months of April and June 2020.
2. What are the risks involved in Twitch?
Although the requirement to be able to register and create an account on Twitch is to be at least 13 years old and the supervision of an adult up to the age of 18 is recommended, it is enough to register by entering a false date of birth. This fact highlights the first risk that the platform entails: the uncontrolled use by minors, who, once registered, can begin to make their own broadcasts, interact with other users and receive alerts from streamers.
A study, carried out in 2020 by the American magazine Wired, pointed out that many of the streamers of the platform did not reach the age of 13. The study also concluded that many of these minors received messages of inappropriate content from anonymous users through chat or direct messages, called Whispers.
This ease of access to the platform by children and adolescents becomes a great risk that minors may have uncomfortable or dangerous experiences, such as:
- grooming (approach of pedophiles based on deception),
- sexting (sending and receiving sexual, erotic or pornographic messages) or
- cyberbullying (bullying through networks).
Another risk involved in Twitch is that, although access is free, expenses can be generated within the platform through the purchase of Bits or through subscriptions to access some exclusive content. Added to this risk is the risk of possible scams, either by other users or, sometimes, even by the streamers themselves.
Twitch does not have any tool that allows parental control, nor does it offer the possibility of blocking broadcasts or limiting the time of use. Likewise, although the rules of the platform are strict regarding certain content, for example, the publication of sexual content, it also does not offer age filters for video games, whose specific content may include nudity or violence.
And, beyond these risks, the Twitch phenomenon also causes another series of psychological problems, such as anxiety, isolation or addiction.
3. Twitch addicts
Twitch addiction can occur in different ways, in the first instance, Twitch is a platform with a high percentage of its content focused on the world of video games.
According to a study, during 2019 more than 15 million ages between 6 and 64 years of age, dedicated their time to video games, specifically, the youth dedicated an average of 6.7 hours per week to the development of this leisure activity and, in the USA, addiction to them affects approximately 5% of the adolescent population. A not encouraging figure.
The social situation of confinement caused by the Covid pandemic has led to the increase of this type of leisure and, in that regard, Twitch becomes one of its most representative means.
In fact, video game addiction is one of the addictions that has grown the most during the pandemic and, as stated in the report presented by the OEDA, this risk would increase since, according to its data, 15.2% of the people surveyed would admit to having started using video games during confinement and a not insignificant figure of 7.2% of the players would have a possible video game.
In this sense, the risk of Twitch also lies in the fact that, there are not a few people who take refuge in streams as a way to avoid isolation and share their experiences, without realizing that this fact, contrary to what is expected, can mean an even greater isolation from reality and lead to problems of anxiety, depression or addiction.
The experiences in Twitch have nothing to do with the real context and personal value that comes from their own experiences and learnings, focusing on the observation and comments of what other people do or think who usually provide unrewarding content, limiting creative thinking and autonomy.
In fact, Twitch not only favors these disorders in players, it also poses a problem for those young people who seek recognition on the platform through their own broadcasts, since, in many cases, the management of popularity and the overexposure to which streamers are exposed can lead to different disorders and further weaken the self-esteem of those people who end up focusing their personal value on the platform.
On the other hand, among the followers of these content creators, there is also the risk of the inappropriate use of the money (bits) used on the platform to, among other things, acquire the recognition of their favorite gamers who reward this expense with acknowledgments and live mentions and who, sometimes, can end up becoming a disorder with shades of gambling.
4. Prevent addictive behaviors
The prevention of addictive behaviors related to the Twitch phenomenon is essential.
What is clear is that the number of hours invested in front of the screen, although its purpose is recreation, must be moderated in order to avoid possible problems ranging from disorders in sleep habits, to eating disorders and different addictions (video games, cybersex, online gambling, etc.).
In relation to addiction to video games or Internet activity in general terms, it is essential that parents be attentive to the possible symptoms that may suggest the appearance of these addictive disorders, including:
Abusive use of time in these activities
The time spent on Twitch becomes the central nucleus of the person's life, ceasing to perform other activities that previously did satisfy him, generating dependence, as is the case with other addictions with or without substance (toxic or non-toxic addictions).
They range from euphoria and excitement to decay, aggression and apathy.
Tolerance and withdrawal symptoms
There is an increasing need to use these activities in order to obtain the same sensation as at the beginning and when it is impossible to perform this activity, a symptomatology is triggered very similar to that which occurs with other addictive disorders: anxiety, nervousness, irritability, depression, etc.
Affectation of interpersonal relationships
Conflicts appear in relationships with others (family, partner, friends, etc.), as well as a decrease in academic or work performance related to the loss of control in this type of activity.
Despite the cessation of activity, after a period of control, addictive patterns are restored, sometimes even by dedicating more time and, as we have seen, money to receive recognition within the "community".
5. Bottom line
In addition to being attentive to these signals, it is also important to maintain supervision in other aspects such as the control of video game content or online activity, agree on certain schedules to avoid indiscriminate activity and isolation, maintain an active listening and an open attitude that facilitates the emotional well-being of the adolescent and promote other healthier recreational or entertainment activities.
In cases of addiction to video games or social networks, there are specific psychological treatments aimed at overcoming them.
It is not a question in any case of demonizing online entertainment, video games or the platforms that offer this type of content, but of making responsible use of these activities and knowing the risks that certain incentives may entail, such as obtaining recognition or money, in order to avoid them.
In short, good use of screens inevitably goes through a limitation of the time of use and to understand that, in reality, cannot and should not be replaced by them.
A pick from the blue bird
A Twitch streamer has been exposed for scamming people out of money to fuel a gambling addiction. It started with CS:GO skins and Twitch as a platform has a content category for people to watch where gambling is promoted. Gaming has a part to play and a responsibility to share.— Tamoor Hussain (@tamoorh) September 18, 2022
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