Livestreaming
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The Issue

Livestreaming is a video feature available on many popular apps that allows users to share real-time video. Video conferencing is a popular form of live streaming that is currently being utilized by schools across the world to facilitate e-learning. These livestreams are usually very secure, employing “waiting rooms” to screen participants, passwords, and other security features. This type of livestreaming differs from the type of livestreaming that is available on social media. These social media livestreams are often made to generate funny content, share thoughts, showcase a skill or talent, or share an event with friends and followers.

Livestreams differ from recorded video in two key ways. First, these videos happen live and therefore are not moderated, meaning explicit, illegal, or other disturbing content may appear on the stream without warning. And second, unlike traditional videos, after the livestream is concluded, unless otherwise specified by the user, the video “disappears”. However, videos could be recorded, saved, and later posted by users who were watching the initial livestream. The “impermanence” of live streaming makes it popular with younger users, but the lack of moderation and ability to surreptitiously record streams presents challenges to protecting children’s safety.

In fact, reports of exploitive livestreams have increased in recent years.  In these reports, ill-intentioned individuals, aware of the unique vulnerability of children online, use livestreaming video to entice children to undress, expose themselves on camera, engage in sexual activity independently and with others, and engage in self-harming behaviors.

In many of the suspected incidents of child sexual exploitation involving livestreams that are reported to NCMEC’s CyberTipline, the child engages in sexual or self-harming behaviors in response to comments from viewers coaxing them for the content. Other reports have included instances of children responding to viewers and divulging personal information including where they go to school, their phone number, and even their home address. 

The risks involved with livestreaming on social media make it a tool better suited for older teens and experienced internet users who have grounded understandings of their privacy controls and follower-base, and a clear understanding of what constitutes acceptable, responsible behavior online. It’s best for younger children to limit their use of livestreaming to video conferencing and other educational situations.

By the Numbers

In 2019, internet users watched
1.1 billion hours
of live video.
1

By the end of 2020, livestreaming is expected to account for
82% of all
internet traffic
.
2

Livestreaming is very popular with gamers. Gaming livestreams account for over  
9 billion hours
of videos watched.
3

How to Talk About It

Ask

  • Do you ever watch livestreaming videos from your friends or people you follow online? If so, why? What do you like about them?

  • Do you ever livestream? If so, what platforms do you use? What do you share when you livestream? Do you know who can view your livestreams?

  • What are the pros and cons of livestreaming video versus recording and later sharing content? What could be some safety concerns with each?

Reinforce

  • If you are livestreaming, be careful and considerate of what you post and who you allow to see it.

  • It’s very hard to be sure anything done online, even if it “disappears”, remains truly private. It’s easy to screen grab or record content that was never intended to be widely shared.

  • You have the right to say “NO” to anyone who talks about or asks you to do something that makes you uncomfortable, even if it’s someone you know. 

  • If you ever are facing a problem online, there are trusted adults who can help you. It’s OK to keep asking for help until you get the assistance you need.

  • If someone requests inappropriate content from you or another person under age 18, save the evidence, then block and report the user to the website/game/app where the inappropriate behavior happened. You can also report this to CyberTipline.org. 

Recommended Resources

Season 2 of "Into the Cloud" deals explicitly with livestreaming and digital threats. Coming soon!

Sextortion: PSA

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