Live Streaming - An Online Safeguarding Minefield

Live streaming is the broadcasting of real-time, live video to an audience over the internet. All you need to be able to live stream is an internet enabled device, like a smart phone or tablet, and a platform to broadcast on.

Live streaming is highly appealing to children and young people - it gives them the chance to be a creator, a presenter and to be seen by an audience. Sharing something and having people show an interest right there and then, in real time, can be a huge confidence and ego boost for young people, especially teenagers. Children in care can be even more vulnerable to dependency upon this kind of social affirmation, and the immediacy of the format coupled with reduced inhibition online can be a heady and toxic mix for young people prone to risk taking behaviour.

Live streaming can be both unpredictable and hard to moderate which is understandably worrying for all parents, but as a group children in care are even more vulnerable to the risks.

Reduced Inhibition Online

The screen can feel like a protective barrier between themselves and the online world and this may lead children, especially teenagers, to engage in riskier behaviour than they might otherwise in ‘real life’.

Exploitation and Manipulation

Children of all ages are vulnerable to exploitation and manipulation, which combined with the immediacy of live streaming can quickly lead them into dangerous situations. Younger children may find it hard to distinguish between safe and trusted adults who are there to help and those who are not. They may be vulnerable to feeling as though they should do whatever an adult online tells them to do. Older children, especially those with low self-esteem, may be especially vulnerable to tactics such as trickery and flattery to manipulate them into sharing personal information, images or video.

Heat of the Moment Decisions

Live streaming is ‘in the moment’ – young people can often share or do something in the heat of the moment without proper consideration of the significance or potential repercussions.

Desperately Seeking Affirmation

Social affirmation and acceptance can be like a drug to a child who often feels rejected or on the outskirts of society, and they may engage in increasingly more extreme or risky behaviour in order to achieve it, perhaps out of fear of losing followers or ‘friends’.

How Can You Help Keep Them Safe?

Live streaming sounds like an online safeguarding minefield, and in so many respects it is. Yet technology is not going away, and prohibiting young people in care from participating in ‘normal’ social activity is not the answer. So how exactly do we to keep children safe if they are using live streaming apps? ThinkUKnow gives the following advice:

  • Stay involved in young people’s internet use
  • Use webcam and devices in public spaces in the household
  • Use privacy and safety settings
  • Teach children to be wary of requests to chat in private</span>
  • Help children identify adults that are there to help from ones who they do not know or that may want something in return
  • Make sure they know about all the people and places they can go to for support and to report anything they are uncomfortable about

ThinkUKnow also emphasises the need to build resilience in young people (a familiar topic for foster carers) by helping to build children’s self-esteem through conversations and activities that are not based on validation from online ‘fans’ or views. Nurturing emotional resilience and a sense of self- worth through patience, care, acceptance and commitment to them will equip children with the ability to make better decisions and be an active participant in their own safeguarding – skills for life in our modern, always connected world.


More Information

This article draws from information published on the ThinkUKnow website, a useful resource for foster carers, parents, guardians and children on safeguarding children from sexual exploitation and harm.

Today is Safer Internet Day, and this year the topic is the relationships that young people form online and what we can do to ensure those relationships remain healthy and safe. Visit the Safer Internet Day website to find out more.