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Is Twitch Safe For Kids? Platform Under Fire For Enabling Child Predation

Twitch is under fire after reports show how its poor restrictions enable child predation and grooming; nearly 280,000 kids were targeted.
Is Twitch Safe For Kids? Platform Under Fire For Enabling Child Predation

For years, Twitch has struggled to foster a safe environment for kids. While the platform is a popular source of entertainment for children and even allows kids to live stream, there are mounting concerns over their safety amid the ever-pressing threat of child predation.

Unlike rival platforms TikTok or YouTube, Twitch’s relatively relaxed restrictions and requirements have allegedly enabled the continuing growth of child predation. According to Bloomberg, nearly 280,000 children were targeted by child predators on Twitch between October 2020 and August 2022.

Moreover, out of the almost 2,000 users followed in the analysis, alleged child predators found 673 children daily in July 2022. However, more concerning, additional reports indicate that child predation “might be more widespread” of an issue than this data suggests.

The Risk Of Child Predation And Grooming On Twitch Is Rife

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Reports show 280,000 children were targeted on Twitch by child predators from 2020 to 2022. (Picture: Unsplash)

According to the investigation by Cecilia D'Anastasio, who worked with researchers, child predatory cases have risen sharply during the pandemic. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) reported that from 2019 to 2021, child sexual abuse online skyrocketed by 73%. But on Twitch, it meteorically rose by 1,125%.

This staggering rise in cases is thought to be due to kids spending more time at home and being engaged online due to the pandemic. In addition, the global crisis has to some extent, encouraged online learning, social interaction, and activities, resulting in kids achieving double their typical doses of screen time.

twitch received increase child sexual abuse online
Twitch has received a 1,125% increase in child sexual abuse online, according to the NCMEC. (Picture: Twitch)

Although this might be beneficial for learning, the apparently relaxed restrictions of social media platforms have spurred concerns about enabling children to effortlessly stream or post content, putting them at greater risk of grooming and child predation, owing to the lack of online protective barriers.

Compared to YouTube or TikTok, where underage individuals aren’t allowed to stream, Twitch has no strict rules. As a result, children can create accounts and stream without issue, despite the platform stating individuals 13 and under are prohibited from using Twitch.

children grooming child predation twitch
Children are at risk of grooming and child predation on Twitch. (Picture: Unsplash)

While the platform does require an email or phone number for validation, children can still easily fake their account information and start streaming on Twitch. 

The platform only started investigating and monitoring underaged accounts and potential predatory cases after verifying reports indicating a violation of the platform’s policies on online child safety.

Noting this, Twitch has since “quadrupled the size of its law enforcement response team,” working with the NCMEC and Tech Coalition, an industry-wide alliance combating online child sex abuse. A spokesperson at Twitch stated the platform has “numerous additional updates in development to detect and remove child streamers and predators.”

july 2022 alleged child predators found children twitch daily
In July 2022, reports show alleged child predators found 673 children on Twitch daily. (Picture: Twitch)

But these efforts might not be enough to combat these issues. Bloomberg's researcher “assembled databases of Twitch accounts by manually identifying Livestreams of young people and determining which of their followers also track other children."

Accordingly, one of the researcher's data sets represented predatory users (i.e., those believed to be adults targeting children), and found that "each possess[ed] a follower list composed of at least 70% kids or young teens.”

Furthermore, verified reports showed that “1,976 accounts had numerous children in their following lists.” In addition, the researcher found live video recordings and other documents and analyses showing child predatory acts on Twitch.

While reporting on this matter, Bloomberg discovered other live videos and predatory accounts not cataloged by the researcher, “suggesting the problem could be even more widespread than data portrays.”

research twitch accounts followed numerous children
Research showed that "1,976 [Twitch] accounts had numerous children in their following lists." (Picture: Unsplash)

Twitch’s reliance on “a combination of user reports and live moderation to shut down inappropriate streams” might help combat some child predation cases. Still, reports show that it’s quickly become an inadequate solution and requires better restrictions to prevent these numbers from rising. 

Although the platform is striving hard to make Twitch a safe environment for children, it’s arguably insufficient to stop the multitude of predators preying on innocent underaged individuals daily. Until Twitch decides to make stricter requirements on accessing the platform and streaming or combat these issues in other ways, the platform is perhaps not a safe place for children.

On ways to help combat child grooming and predation online, feel free to visit National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

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Featured image courtesy of Twitch and Unsplash.