PART 3: Online Gaming and Your Child, Continued : It’s Just Another Gaming Video… Or Is It?

The musings of an empathetic mum, teacher, leader and global digital citizen (aka Mrs V).

As I drove home late one evening last week I was listening to talk-back radio and a digital podcast came on. They were discussing what I thought was a new live-streaming video platform called TWITCH. Now this was a new one for me, so I set about doing my homework: I researched, asked my children and phoned a friend.

As it turns out Twitch is not new at all, in fact it is about 5 years old. It was originally founded in June 2011 and is now owned by Amazon, purchased for a whopping $970 million (just three years after hitting the market).

In particular, they were discussing the phenomenon of children who watch gaming videos — of other people gaming. Have you ever heard the saying ‘it’s like watching paint dry?’ Well that is a little like how I feel as I observe my children watching gaming videos of other gamers! Am I right??? After all, what is the appeal of sitting for what feels like hours, just watching another person play a computer game.

Okay, now as a mother of three online gamers (to varying degrees), this trend honestly does not surprise me, however, the next statistic did! It was recently calculated that during a two week period over 5000 human years of videos had been watched on TWITCH alone. SERIOUSLY!

Now I don’t know about you, but that really got me thinking. So I started to dig a little deeper into Twitch.

Twitch is the world’s leading live-streaming social video service and community for GAMERS. One key difference to YouTube is that the videos on Twitch are live streamed, allowing the viewer to chat with their idols in real time and feel like they are a part of the experience. Each day, millions of community members gather (online) to watch, talk and chat about shared gaming interests. Here are a few more statistics for you:

  • Twitch has 140 million unique viewers/month
  • Twitch has now live-streamed 241 billion minutes of gaming content; that is the equivalent of 458 592 years of gaming content
  • Nearly half of Twitch users spend 20 hours or more a week watching videos on the platform

Now, I don’t know about you, but in our family we continue to navigate our way through the online gaming world; our journey has been signposted by such key events as:

Stage 1: My children or I levelling up in our game!

Stage 2: In-App purchases; always a treat!

Stage 3: The firm but loving whisper about turning our devices off as it is time for a shower!

Stage 4: The stare-down (with raised voice)  “Don’t make me turn off the Wifi” discussion… and finally…

Stage 5: The Full Blown Tech Ban – where Mummy’s eyes pop out of her head (also known as Supernova in our house.)

So why am I spending so much time talking about platforms like Twitch or YouTube when our focus is online gaming?

It is important to note that it is not only when our children are playing their online games that they are learning a range of different behaviours, skills and language. In fact, it can be argued that when our children watch other people play online games on platforms such as Twitch and YouTube, they are exposed to even more visual and audio content than they are when they are just playing their own game. This surplus stimulus comes in the form of the words, actions and manner of the gamer they are choosing to watch.

Not only do they learn the skills, tricks, manoeuvres, hacks and strategy of the gamer through watching them play, they also learn things like:

  • How I should behave when I am playing.
    I have observed online gamers in their videos display behaviours such as yelling at the screen, banging on the desk and hitting themselves if they make a mistake. I have also observed them doing celebratory dances and spinning around on their swivel chairs if they win or lose.
  • What to say out loud when they are playing.
    Nearly all gamers that are on YouTube and Twitch display outbursts and commentary during their videos. In fact, when speaking with some students, they reported that the commentary is the part they enjoy doing the most. Much of the commentary can be funny, witty and an excellent example of how to cope with failure or success. Likewise there are many gamers that set a terrible example of negative self-talk or abusive behaviour towards their device or the people they are playing against, including language that mocks and denigrates other players.

In short, being aware of your child’s gaming-video viewing content is, just as important as monitoring their actual gaming and social media content. Again, this is where doing your homework is so important. Do you know who your child’s favourite YouTuber or Twitch-Streamer is? Have you ever listened to them (the gamer) talking in one of their videos? Have you ever watched one of your child’s favourite Twitch Streamers with them? If you answered no to any of these questions can I suggest the following homework during the next two weeks?

YOUR MISSION: should you choose to accept it, is to talk with your child about their online gaming VIDEO viewing.

Here are some questions to get you started:

  • Do you prefer Twitch, YouTube or another video/ live-streaming platform?
  • Which Twitch or YouTube channels do you enjoy watching the most? (E.g. Fortnite, Minecraft, Counter Strike etc)
  • Who is your favourite YouTuber/ Twitch Streamer? (E.g. Clashlol, Kenzo, Stewie2K, KennyS and many, many more)
  • What do you like about watching them play?
  • Are there any gamers that you do not like to watch? Why? (It is amazing the insights our children can provide us with if we just ask)

Let’s remember, from the moment we were born, could observe the world around us, and begin to make sense of the information surrounding us — we have been shaped and formed to be who we are today. My encouragement to you is to consider your child’s online video viewing the same way. What are they watching, hearing, learning and modelling? How can we help these experiences to be the best of both worlds: safe for their development, while allowing them to remain connected to their friends, their passions and the online world they crave so much?

MRS V’S Hot Tip for the week:

Consider where your child sits when watching their videos. Can you see their screen? Are they using headphones all the time — therefore stopping you from hearing the content? Every now and then, ask your child to unplug their headphones so that you can hear what is being said on the video. Patient observation, and gentle, open and calm conversations will always be key in these interactions.

 Mrs V
Novice Minecraft player, Level 10 Clash Royale Clan Leader (yes, I have been promoted since we last spoke), firm but loving digital parent, mistake-maker and Head of Junior School


Special mention must go to the following online gamers for sharing their experiences with me and patiently answering my questions (without LOL too much):  Anime_Spongebob — Lifeless — Secret_DanTDM