Live Streaming Apps: Harmless Fun or Fount of Dangers?
Simply taking and posting videos is so last season. Video streaming apps seem to be the new craze of the day. Children adore them because it makes them feel as celebrities, broadcasting their lives on the go to their own audience of fans. There is a number of paid products, but also quite a few free live streaming apps, so anyone can join in and begin broadcasting just in a few clicks. Before you decide whether they should allow Live.ly or Periscope for kids, let’s look into this fad and learn what we should know about it, when it comes to underage children and their safety.
Periscope is probably the most widely known app for live streaming because it is extremely easy to start broadcasting – as simple as one touch. You can choose stream to private invitees or to the public at large. It keeps broadcasted video for your friends to see, should they miss it, but no longer than for 24 hours. You can also share your videos on Twitter. Periscope was caught in the middle of a scandal more than once in connection with suicide and rape broadcasted live.
Meerkat is Periscope’s biggest competitor. Apart from smartphones, it works for webcams. Unlike Periscope and many other apps, you do not have to link it to any social account, so signing up is very easy. It only broadcasts publicly and in real time. Meerkat users can search for broadcasts in specific areas with the help of location filter so when it comes to privacy – it is virtually non-existent.
Livestream has been around as a web-service quite a while, and now it is also a mobile app. Although Livestream is not as easy to use as others from this list are, still, it is entertaining enough due to a variety of easy-to-find live events. Also, the app is more of a social network in its own right.
Live.ly app is primarily targeted at teens and its popularity quickly went over the top mostly thanks to the broad fan base the developers won with their previous creation – a clip-making app called Musical.ly. With such wild popularity, no wonder both apps attract all sorts of people, who reportedly used the apps to groom minors.
YouNow is another real-time video broadcasting app immensely popular among teens. It offers chats and a possibility and to buy gifts and points to tip broadcasters you liked. The teens and tweens often complain about “creepy viewers” they cannot ban and weird messages they get, but it does not prevent them from using this app even at night, broadcasting how they sleep in their beds on the #sleepingsquad channel or playing sexually suggestive games with strangers on the #truthordare channel.
Mentions is Facebook’s live-streaming app, and it only streams for Facebook. To live-stream, you must have the app, but you can watch from desktops as well. Unfortunately, privacy settings are somewhat fickle, so you never know who is watching. Unfortunately, this app also has been involved in a scandal: teenagers were engaged in sexual activities while broadcasting to their classmates.
Stringwire is owned by NBC and was created for crowd-sourcing local news, so anything you film within the app becomes the property of NBC. On the other hand, it can be very appealing for teenagers who want to end up on the TV.
Google Hangouts is easy to use and its highlight is the possibility to invite others to “hang out” with you, meaning to join your stream and broadcast together, having up to 10 people on air at once. Your teenager may want to use this one to work on the group projects with their classmates. Alternatively, to fool around.
UStream is rated 17+ and that must be enough to ban it from your child’s device. In UStream, you can announce your upcoming broadcasts and attract the audience with provocative headlines, like this one, for example.
Blab is a relatively new app, which is also available from a web-browser. You ought to have a Twitter account to sign in. Blab measures the popularity of broadcasters with “applauses” they receive from the viewers. A person can also see twits about their video, and they are not always kind and tactful.
Hang w/ supports both the app and web-connected cameras like GoPro. It is freemium with in-app purchases, which adds money to the overall concern. There are many celebrities posting their archive videos and broadcasting live. You can join, watch, comment and live stream yourself. You can even tip your favorite broadcaster with money, and that is where the whole thing may go foul very fast when you think of how it can be exploited to bribe broadcasters into doing something inappropriate.
Live streaming apps can be very entertaining and even insightful. However, using them is literally talking to strangers and inviting them into your bedroom: you are exposed to all kinds of attention and all sorts of content. Children can be groomed and harassed by predators, or bullied by their peers. Victimization may not be limited only to cyber-space – with geolocation and information your child unwittingly provides, it can be very easy to find out where he or she lives down to a street and a house.
If you decide to allow using any of those apps to your child, you should talk to them about the inherent dangers of random strangers seeing their live streams. Make sure your child disables automatic geo-location and avoids showing any significant landmarks that can identify the place where you live.
You should also add your child as a contact within the app to be able to see as least what goes publicly broadcasted. Unfortunately, there is no other way to track those videos, and there is no way at all to see what your child is streaming privately, even with parental controls. Moreover, you can never tell what your kid can see in other people’s streams.
Therefore, if you have any second thoughts, better do not let your children download any live streaming mobile app at all, or block it if it has already been installed.