Livestreaming – Keeping children Safe – Oct 2019

For many parents and teachers, keeping up with young people’s use of technology and the latest trends often presents a challenge. With the growing popularity of livestreaming, I often get asked by teachers how they can keep children safe. We therefore dedicated last week’s webinar to this topic, and just in case you missed it, you can watch it below and read on for some useful advice:

What exactly is livestreaming?

Not to be confused with video chats such as Skype where you can chat via video to a person, livestreaming enables anyone to broadcast a video in live time to an audience. A key difference is that whilst you can select who you chat with during a video chat, livestreaming doesn’t offer that level of control because you are streaming to a public audience – so it’s literally like going out into the park and standing on a box, where anyone who happens to be out there can watch and interact with you. All that’s required is an internet enabled device such as a mobile phone or tablet, and an app, social media site or website to broadcast it.

Why is it so popular with children?

Livestreaming offers young people a great way to stay connected and be part of their peer group as well as gaining exposure to a wider community, where they can interact with their viewers. Whether it’s to showcase a talent, express their identity or share significant events, they are at that moment the star of their show. As for for the audience, it provides an avenue to follow, participate and keep track of other people’s lives, be it friends, family or celebrities. Whilst several livestreaming apps have specifically been developed, a number of social media apps like Facebook live and Instagram’s live video feature have integrated this feature into their platforms almost as an afterthought.

So what are the risks?

As with any innovation around technology, it is important to be aware of the risks to ensure children can maximise these opportunities in a safe and meaningful way. Our DigiSafe pupil online safety survey last year in which 40,000 pupils took part, provided a worrying insight into young people’s experiences livestreaming, made even more concerning given the increase in the use of these services:

  • Almost a quarter have livestreamed with someone they haven’t met in person
  • More than 1 in 20 pupils had been asked to change or get undressed on screen – a particular concern is that the youngest (7 – 8-year olds) were just as likely to be asked to get undressed as students in the first 4 years of secondary school. Whereas predators may trick older children into undressing online, as opposed to coerce or request, they may also hide behind a challenge for younger children, such as “Let’s see how quickly you can change into your swimming costume.”
  • 1 in 6 said something else had happened that had made them feel uncomfortable – with levels of discomfort much higher for those in primary school

You can read the full report, ‘Hopes and Streams’ at pupilsurvey.lgfl.net.

Since carrying out the survey, research carried out by the Internet Watch Foundation revealed that 98% of publicly available livestreamed child sexual abuse images involved children aged 13 and under, with 28% of them below the age of 10.   As well as inappropriate contact, young people could also be exposed to age inappropriate sexual or violent content, abusive and offensive comments and bullying from their audience. Children may freely give out their social media contact details in order to attract more followers, often broadcasting alone from their bedrooms – this is the equivalent of letting strangers into their home without parents realising. With those vulnerable often seeking validation online, positive comments and compliments could also encourage risky behaviour, and because of the live nature, content cannot be edited or moderated and once streamed, could be recorded and shared. The thrill of being live may also reduce their inhibitions, encouraging them to say or do things they wouldn’t normally do, which in turn could have an impact on their digital footprint, with repercussions for their online reputation in terms of how others may see them in the future – think about university applications and employment opportunities.

How can teachers help?

The curriculum provides several opportunities to share good practice, build resilience and promote critical thinking skills online. Teachers can go to livestreaming.lgfl.net to download classroom resources, posters and our ready to use CPD powerpoint with top tips and activities on livestreaming for staff training and discussion starters:

You may also want to take a look at Thinkuknow’s #LiveSkills, designed to help primary and secondary pupils think critically about who they interact with, and how to respond to pressure and manipulation online, whilst Childnet’s To Stream or not to stream provides fun scenario based activities to support classroom discussion.

What can parents do?

There are several resources available for parents at parentsafe.lgfl.net, providing practical steps and tips to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience online. As well as disabling location services and enabling privacy settings, so children are only streaming to friends they know, parents could think about being present, especially with younger ones, and consider what the surrounding room or location could give away in terms of personal information.

Discussion and involvement with their online life is key – regular conversations about who their friends are, what apps they enjoy and how they are engaging with them is always useful. Parents can also become moderators to keep things in check and find out more about the apps their children are using from the NSPCC Net Aware site. CEOP have produced a short animation called #WhoIsSam, highlighting the importance of parents and carers talking openly to their children about being safe online, healthy relationships and speaking out if anything happens online that worries them or doesn’t feel right. You can also download factsheets on live streaming for parents/carers and professionals to use alongside the animation.

For primary pupils, a general conversation about staying safe online using NSPCC’s Pants Rule and Pantosaurus video is also useful to help understand what parts of the body should stay private, and that this rule applies online as well. Parents can get further advice about managing livestreaming and reporting concerns in Thinkuknow’s A Short Guide to Livestreaming

Its not all doom and gloom though, so don’t forget to highlight the positives with balanced messages and remind children that if someone asks them to do something online, they can always say no, end the stream, and talk to a trusted adult.

And remember to sign up for our future webinars at digisafewebinar.lgfl.net :

• Cyberbullying: a whole school approach – 13th November 2019
⁣ • Serious Youth Violence – 4th December 2019
⁣ • Fake News – 15th January 2020
⁣ • Engaging Parents with Online Safety – 12th February 2020
⁣ • A Guide for Governors – 11th March 2020 Sign up here and ask your questions in advance.

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