Are your kids interested in watching esports professionals play video games on the Twitch streaming service? Or maybe they’re asking to start a Twitch channel of their own to show off their gaming skills?
There are millions of people who use Twitch each day. And many of them actually are not gamers playing video games.
This streaming service, which is owned by Amazon, is a burgeoning outlet for various forms of online entertainment.
Team Clark keeps tabs on all areas of the streaming industry, and we’ve determined it is time to consider services like Twitch as a growing part of the free streaming category.
In this article, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know about Twitch and help you determine if it is right for the young people in your household — or perhaps even for you.
Table of Contents
What Is Twitch?
Twitch is a social streaming service that lets content creators connect directly with their fans in real time via live chat functions.
In the simplest terms, this is a platform that makes it easy for creators to broadcast live content to the masses.
This Amazon-owned venture originated in 2011 and is a popular place for the video gaming community to congregate online via both its app and website.
Twitch typically is noted as the go-to place for eSports and is where many video game professionals display their skills on the latest PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo or PC game releases. But that classification is changing.
Twitch’s easy-to-use live stream functionality and its accessibility to so many consumers has made it a breeding ground for new types of social content.
This can vary from aspiring musicians performing live concerts to live sporting events to studio talk shows on a variety of topics. You can also find social influencers carrying cameras around doing regular day-to-day activities.
If there’s someone with a camera and an idea, there’s probably a Twitch channel on the topic and at least a few consumers willing to watch it.
How Do I Access Twitch? Is It Free To Use?
Twitch is available through its official app on a variety of devices as well as its website.
You can download the app on the following devices:
- Android phones and tablets
- iOS (Apple) phones and tablets
- Amazon Fire TV devices
- Apple TV devices
- Nvidia Shield
- Google Chromecast
There used to be a Twitch app for Roku, but it is no longer available in the Roku channel store.
At its most basic level, Twitch is available to both content creators and content viewers free of charge. In fact, you can even watch streams without signing up for an account. Just go to the Twitch website and take a look around.
But that’s not to say there isn’t money to be exchanged on the social platform.
As I’ll detail a little later in the article, content creators can charge subscription fees for people to follow their streams. And content consumers can “tip” creators during live streams. So there’s plenty of money changing hands.
What Type of Content Is Available on Twitch?
Twitch offers a wide variety of free content, but there’s no denying its roots in video games. Most of what you’ll find on the streaming service still revolves around esports.
It may surprise some readers to learn that esports is one of the fastest-growing and lucrative leisure activities going these days. That’s right, playing video games isn’t just a way for bored kids to kill time.
It’s so popular that some universities are offering scholarships for talented gamers to join their esports teams, and the top esports gamers in the world make millions of dollars each year for endorsement deals.
Twitch really shines in this area, hosting live broadcasts of competitive gaming tournaments, professional league matches and high-stakes events for a variety of popular video game titles.
For example, while researching this article I happened upon a live stream of competition in the League of Legends European Championship. This match was being broadcast live to more than 100,000 viewers with announcers providing commentary on the action.
Casual Video Gamers
You don’t have to be a world-class esports professional to generate a huge following on Twitch.
There are some gamers who draw thousands of viewers to their live streams simply because they are engaging and entertaining while they play their video games.
If you have a favorite video game, there’s a pretty good chance you could use the Twitch search function to find a creator streaming themselves playing that game.
For example, I found multiple options for watching people play games as simple as Super Mario Bros. to as complex as the latest Call of Duty.
During these streams, content creators will read the chat and answer questions — or even take requests for things like background music while they play. It’s quite an interactive experience for viewers.
If video games aren’t really your thing, there’s still quite a bit of content you may be able to enjoy. Let’s look at some other popular streaming options you’ll find on Twitch.
Similar to services like YouTube Live and Facebook Live, Twitch offers a platform for people to host interactive talk shows in real time — and about subjects other than video games.
You’ll find that podcast and terrestrial radio programmers are integrating their content into live streaming videos on Twitch.
For example, in my hometown of Nashville, there are a handful of sports talk radio shows that broadcast their daily shows live on Twitch.
These are available for on-demand viewing after the live broadcasts, so you can go to their Twitch channels at any time to catch up on the latest episodes.
There are some sports leagues that are taking advantage of Twitch’s live-streaming capabilities to showcase games.
In the past, Amazon has used its contract with the NFL to broadcast the occasional Thursday Night Football game live on Twitch in addition to its television broadcast. But you’ll find that most other sports prohibit live streaming of their events because of their traditional TV contracts.
Amazon also leverages Twitch to display some of its Prime Video broadcasts for sports such as volleyball.
You also may be able to access live streams of games or tournaments for amateur sports (high school, college, etc.) on Twitch.
The music world is another area of entertainment where Twitch is gaining some momentum.
Creators can plug the audio of their instruments and microphones directly into their live streaming tools and put on quite the show on Twitch. Viewers can make requests, cheer them on and even donate to the band if they’re so inclined.
This was particularly useful for musicians who were unable to perform in concerts during the coronavirus pandemic.
Is It Safe? What Parents Should Know
Now that you have a better idea of what type of content Twitch may put in front of your child or teen, you’re probably wondering: Is this platform safe enough for my children?
While that’s ultimately a decision you’ll have to make on your own, let me give you some things to consider along the way to making that call.
Live Streaming Is Unpredictable
When assessing the safety of a social streaming platform, you must first remember: You can’t control what other people are going to say or do during a live stream.
You can grant your child access to a stream based on the reputation of past broadcasts and hope for the best, but there’s nothing you can do to prevent a vulgar statement, lewd act or corrupt idea from being presented to your child during a live stream.
By the time Twitch finds out and shuts down a bad actor, the damage could already be done. So just make sure you do your due diligence in vetting the channels you allow your child to stream.
There Are Age Requirements and Restrictions
Twitch requires that you be at least 13 years of age to sign up for an account. And users between the ages of 13 and 17 have to have parental consent.
This means you’ll probably want to keep kids 12 and under away from the platform.
But you’ll also want to take advantage of the parental controls given to parents of teenagers.
Strangers Will Be Able To Communicate With Your Child
That’s the reality of a streaming service that allows for chatbox interaction during broadcasts.
You can access the settings menu on the app to prevent people from sending unsolicited private messages and limit the functionality of the live chat on streams.
That’s a good place to start ensuring that strangers aren’t getting access to your kids, but nothing replaces being an active monitor of their activities on the account.
You Can Try To Filter Out Mature Content, But Video Games Are Violent
Twitch allows broadcasters the option to indicate that their content is intended for mature audiences. You can also change the settings on your account to prohibit viewing channels with this designation.
This is a nice safeguard for parents who are worried about vulgar content or violent video games.
However, it’s worth noting that even games or streams that don’t fit the thresholds for this designation could have content that you find inappropriate for your child.
Just as you would check out the content of a video game before allowing them to play it, you should check the content of the game before you let them watch someone else play it on the internet.
Watch Your Wallet: Kids May Be Tempted To Load Money Onto Twitch Accounts
It’s a good idea to keep a close eye on your online payment accounts to ensure that your kid isn’t spending your money without your consent.
While this service is free to use, it also allows content creators to charge subscription fees for access to content and request payments for things done on their streams.
You should be able to restrict youth accounts from making this type of transaction, but you’ll want to make sure things are going smoothly on this front before you find yourself with a bill to pay for a purchase you can’t undo.
Can You Make Money Streaming on Twitch?
There’s a reason that so many people want their own Twitch channels.
Popular content creators make enough money on the platform to make this a full-time job.
While that might not be the case for the beginner or your kid who is interested in showing off their Super Mario skills, it’s still worth understanding how this works from a financial standpoint.
How Content Creators Make Money
There are five basic ways that Twitch channels can monetize their content. Some of them involve active participation from viewers, while others are more traditional online monetization methods.
There are four basic ways that content creators get paid on Twitch:
- Subscriptions: Creators can set recurring fees for viewers to gain access to their channels.
- Ad Revenue Share: Twitch inserts advertisements into the live streaming content (usually when you first load a stream or switch to a different channel).
- Amazon Referrals: Twitch is owned by Amazon, so it makes sense that it allows creators to cross-sell Amazon products on their channels for a cut of the profits.
- Bits: Think of these as small virtual “tips” for performing well on the stream. A video gamer beating a difficult level or a musician nailing the high note might receive bits (which have a small cash value) from the viewers who enjoyed the entertainment.
You can read more about Twitch monetization methods here.
How Twitch Makes Its Money
Finally, you may be wondering why Amazon is dabbling in this genre. And the answer is pretty simple: Eyeballs equal money.
With millions of users watching user-generated content daily, all Twitch has to do is sell advertisements to companies that want to market to this captivated audience.
That means many of the free streams your kid is watching are going to be subject to commercials. Just like on TV. I watched some of these commercials and found that many of them were video game-oriented.
Twitch also sees a slice of the subscription fees that a creator may charge you to watch their channel.
Is This a Free Streaming Alternative?
As I mentioned earlier in the article, Team Clark considers Twitch to be an emerging free content option for people who are trying to cut the cord and eliminate their cable or satellite TV bill.
For people of an older generation who are used to the traditional television viewing experience, it may seem weird to think of Twitch in that way.
But for some sectors of the population, this streaming service already has replaced the need to watch TV.
So here’s more information about what Twitch can and can’t do as a television alternative.
It’s Not a Good Replacement for Movies or Bingeworthy TV
First, let’s talk about what Twitch isn’t. It’s not the place to go for movie nights on the couch or even for a night of binge-watching sitcoms. That type of content doesn’t exist here.
And because of that, I don’t believe Twitch can be considered a one-stop answer for cord-cutters. But it can be one more piece of the puzzle when replacing your cable service.
I provide some ideas for pairing other free streaming services with Twitch to get the optimal free streaming experience here.
Twitch vs. YouTube Is the Best Streaming Comparison
If I had to compare this service to another free streaming option, I’d say it is most like YouTube.
YouTube also has a community of content creators that provide both live and on-demand entertainment for fans who can easily interact through comments and subscriptions. Used in tandem, these two streaming services could offer a streamer more quality, free content than they have hours in the day to consume.
YouTube does not have near the focus on video games and has more mainstream content creators on the platform. So if you only go with one, I’d suggest using YouTube over Twitch at this point.
Pros and Cons for Using Twitch
|If you’re a fan of video games, there’s no better place on the internet to find live streaming from elite esports gamers.||It’s impossible to control what happens on a live stream while your child is watching.|
|Twitch can create a social community for people who share common interests.||Though it has improved in recent years, Twitch still lacks a breadth of content options outside the video game genre.|
|The free service allows content creators to both reach their target audiences and also generate revenue.||Amazon already has Prime Video, which may limit the amount of premium content it features on this platform.|
Bottom Line: Like MySpace or Facebook before it, Twitch has seemingly become an online meeting spot that has captured the imaginations of the young people of this generation.
That means many parents are likely going to have to study up and set some ground rules for using the social platform alongside things like YouTube and TikTok.
Just go into that decision knowing what Twitch is all about. It’s heavy on video games and content creators who interact with their audiences. In moderation and under the right supervision, this can be an acceptable form of streaming entertainment for older kids.
Do you have experience with Twitch and want to offer some advice for parents? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!
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