Research presented during the 2023 AAP National Conference & Exhibition reviews ways youth use the live platform and interact with adult strangers
Washington, D.C.— A popular live streaming platform, Twitch, poses risks to minors who can interact with adult strangers and donate money to streamers without the supervision of a parent or guardian, according to research presented during the 2023 AAP National Conference & Exhibition at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.
The abstract, “Predator Paradise: Analyzing the Ease of Accessibility to Minors on Twitch,” found that young users feel a false sense of safety on the platform, as a significant proportion were willing to reveal personal information despite having no knowledge of who might be listening. The nature of the live streaming platform makes it particularly risky, as there is no way to take back information that minor streamers reveal while on Twitch.
“Twitch is an exciting platform; however, it may present hidden dangers for minor users,” said Ruth Milanaik, MD, FAAP, principal investigator of the study.
“Parents need to supervise all interactions on this platform to best protect their child.”
To conduct the research, trained coders entered Twitch.tv, searched popular video games and scrolled to view current live streams that appeared to be conducted by minors and who had their cameras on and showed their faces. No accounts were created for this study. The participants analyzed data collected on 100 minor Twitch streamers with 1,755,452 followers. Youth streamers provided their names (47%) and stated their location 50% of the time. About 38% provided detailed schedules of when they would be live, and 64% linked and encouraged viewers to follow their other public social media. Viewers were able to donate money to 37% of streamers.
“The donation system is quite scary to me,” said Fiona Dubrosa, visiting scholar at Cohen's Children Medical Center, Northwell Health in Rego Park, N.Y. “The idea that anyone can donate money to streamers of any age seems very manipulative, and I do not think that it is widely known of the disturbing ways this could be utilized. Twitch must create a safer platform."
The researchers conclude that popular websites like Twitch can serve as a breeding ground for voyeuristic consumption of underage streamers, and encourage pediatricians and caregivers to be aware of the potential dangers to children.
The authors state that they did not receive financial support for this research but that it was conducted by the Teen Trends Consortium at Cohen's Children Medical Center, Northwell Health. Teen Trends Consortium is a group of researchers aged 18-24 that focuses solely on the most salient issues facing pediatric populations, including substance use and technology.
Ms. Dubrosa is scheduled to present her research, which is below, from 8:28 AM – 8:34 AM Sunday, Oct. 22, 2023, during session H3009.
To request an interview with the authors, contact Michelle Pinto, director of media relations, at Northwell Health at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition, Ms. Dubrosa will be among highlighted abstract authors who will give a brief presentation and be available for interviews during a press conference from 8-9 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 22 in the National Conference Press Room 102AB. During the meeting, you may reach AAP media relations staff in the press room.
Please note: only the abstract is being presented at the meeting. In some cases, the researcher may have more data available to share with media, or may be preparing a longer article for submission to a journal.
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The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 67,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit www.aap.org. Reporters can access the meeting program and other relevant meeting information through the AAP meeting website at http://www.aapexperience.org/
Program Name: AAP National Conference & Exhibition
Submission Type: Council on Child Abuse and Neglect
Abstract Title: Predator Paradise: Analyzing the Ease of Accessibility to Minors on Twitch
New York, NY, United States
Twitch.tv (“Twitch”) is a live online streaming platform where over 30 million people interact and view “creator-made” content. Live streamers must be older than 13 and have a valid email address/phone number to create an account. Concerningly, there are no age restrictions or identification requirements for viewers, potentially putting minors in danger of being watched, followed and groomed by predators. Followers get notified when streamers are live and viewers can donate money to streamers, which can make it easier for predators to manipulate, track, and encourage risky behaviors from minors. This study seeks to better understand the voyeuristic consumption possible via Twitch and its potential dangers to pediatric populations.
Trained coders entered Twitch.tv, searched popular video games (Fig. 1), and scrolled to view current live streams that appeared to be conducted by minors; only streamers who had their cameras on and showed their faces were included. No accounts were created for this study. The following data were collected: 1) video game; 2) age; 3) name; 4) follower count; 5) location; 6) streaming schedule; 7) social media (Fig. 2); 8) links to donate money; 9) topics discussed by streamers; 10) time it took to find minors under each game. Descriptive analysis was conducted in R.
A total of 100 minor Twitch streamers with 1,755,452 followers were analyzed. Youth streamers provided their names (47%) and stated their location 50% of the time. 38% provided detailed schedules of when they would be live, and 64% linked and encouraged viewers to follow their other public social media. Viewers were able to donate money to 37% of streamers. Discussions contained personal details 11% of the time, notably including streamers trying on outfits for viewers and discussing identifiable locations they frequent. It took between 12 to 297 seconds (4.95 minutes) to find minors in each game category.
Twitch represents a clandestine, threatening digital environment where minors are interacting with adult strangers without parental supervision. The nature of live streaming makes it particularly dangerous, as there is no way to take back information that has been revealed or regulate content or viewers. Young users clearly feel a false sense of safety on the platform; a significant proportion were willing to reveal personal information despite having no knowledge of who might be listening. The donation system provides a menacing avenue for manipulation and continued exploitation of minors. Our findings reveal the need for stricter age limitations for streamers and more stringent identity verification of audience members on Twitch. Parents and pediatricians should be aware of the dangers presented by Twitch and other live streaming platforms and counsel children on best practices for internet safety.
Figure 2. Bar Plot of Public Social Media Type Linked by Streamers.
Figure 1. Pie charts of Age of Users (left) and of Games (right).