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Benjamin Lupo, who streams his video gameplay on Twitch, has millions of subscribers across multiple social media platforms.

As any parent knows, nothing can keep a kid’s attention quite like a good video game. Whether kids play games solo or get together with friends and cheer each other along as they reach for the high score, video games have been a favorite pastime for fans of all ages ever since the first arcade was invented.

But as technology has progressed, so has the way we enjoy gaming. Online games have dominated this decade, and we’re seeing the explosive rise of game-streaming sites like Twitch. Here’s what you need to know about this video game streaming site.

What is Twitch?

Simply put, Twitch offers gamers and fans a place to gather around their favorite games together over the internet. Whereas teens used to watch their friends play through a game on their couch, Twitch allows fans to watch live playthroughs of games from friends, celebrities, and other popular game streamers online from separate locations.

Twitch streams can be a lot of fun, but as with any entertainment medium, there are some important guardrails that parents should consider before giving kids full access to a world of content.

Know your games and streamers

First and foremost, the content you’ll find on Twitch is only as kid-friendly as the games and streamers you allow your kids to watch. Twitch as a platform is neutral, but when your kids have an account (if they even log in at all), they’ll be able to search for and find any content that is hosted on the platform.

While Twitch itself doesn’t (currently) offer a way to limit what content is available to underage users, it’s important to establish some “honor system” guidelines with your kids as they spend time on the platform. Set a clear boundary for what kind of games and personalities they’re allowed to watch, and check in on their viewing habits throughout the week. Discuss why it’s important to have these boundaries.

Keep a close eye on chat

As with most online communities, Twitch has comment sections and live chat windows, which have the potential for questionable and inappropriate content. As a parent or guardian, it’s a good idea to keep a close eye on any interaction your kids are having through a chat interface like the ones found on Twitch. While most conversations are innocent and game-related, there’s always the potential to run into foul language, sexual content, and other users who are up to no good.

You might find it helpful to have your kids watch and participate with streams in a common room where it’s easier to check in on what they’re watching and who they’re talking to. Pay particular attention to any Whispers (direct message conversations) that they’re a part of.

Ask other parents what channels and games to avoid

One of the best Twitch tips for parents is to ask other parents (or even older kids) about which games and streamers they would recommend for your kids, and which they should stay away from. Some of the most popular streamers make a name for themselves by being family-friendly, meaning their streams focus on clean games, and their live chats might even be moderated. Finding the right games and channels to subscribe to can make all the difference in how your kids engage with Twitch.

The next time your kids log on, ask them what they’re interested in, and make sure you have the appropriate safeguards in place for your family. Who knows — you might even join in on the fun yourself!

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Eric Murrell is a software developer and technology contributor to Xfinity. He’s been a gamer for 25 years and writes about technology on his blog At Home in the Future.

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