Is it okay for my children to watch other people gaming online?

Recent studies predict the eSports and streamed games industry will reach a revenue of USD1.1 billion in 2021. Streaming gameplay has become a huge industry, with leading platforms such as Twitch, YouTube Gaming, and Facebook Gaming offering consumers unlimited content for free. As a result, parents often wonder whether it is okay for their child to watch other people play games online, and the answer is yes, within reason, of course.

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Written by Cyber Expert:

Jordan Foster

Clinical Child Psychologist

Watching video game streaming has become the norm for those who are interested in gaming. This is illustrated through the user numbers on Twitch, the largest streaming platform on the internet. As of 2020, League of Legends, the most viewed game on Twitch, has 29 billion views. Additionally, Twitch sees 140 million active users on its platform each month. Streaming has become a very lucrative business, with the big-name players achieving celebrity status. You may have heard your kids mention Ninja, PewDiePie, TimTheTatman, Pokimane, or DanTDM. Each streamer or gamer has their preferred games of choice, so who your child watches will depend on the games they like to play. 

Why do kids enjoy watching others play online?

Kids enjoy watching others play games online in the same way adults love watching professionals play sports on TV. Often watching advanced gamers play gives kids access to game elements they haven't reached because they don't yet have the skills.

Skill development is another reason kids love to watch others game. Just as people who enjoy cooking learn new techniques by watching a cooking show, kids can increase their knowledge about a game and improve their playing experience by watching others. Often players will use online gaming videos as a how-to guide for more challenging parts of a game they are struggling to solve. In addition, some kids watch gamers play online as a way of staying up-to-date with their friends if they are not allowed to have a particular game, often due to its age rating or the price tag. 

What to look out for

Despite the benefits of watching others game, there are a few concerning online gaming features that parents should know. Firstly, it is considered passive screen time, and while it’s enjoyable for your child, it should be treated as though they are watching television. You should uphold your family's rules and expectations surrounding TV viewing when watching online gamers. This may include limiting the time your child can spend watching online gaming or the things they need to do before they are allowed to watch, for example, homework or spending time outside in the fresh air.

Parents should be aware that many popular online gamers are adults who create content intended for mature audiences; therefore, there is often strong language and themes present in the videos that are inappropriate for children. The commentary accompanying a player's actual gameplay is just as important as how they handle themselves in the game. Viewers get to know the streamer almost as a friend, and their personality impacts their popularity. Many video games have a mature rating due to violence and gore and provocative or sexually explicit themes within the game they are playing. Some games that are currently extremely popular, for example, Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, Assassin's Creed, the Wolfenstein series, and Doom, are not appropriate for kids.

Which gamers are okay for kids to watch?

To help keep your kids safe, it is important you know which online gamers they are watching. A simple Google search will help you determine if the gamer has a controversial personality and is not appropriate for kids, but ensure the information you find is from a reputable organization. An excellent place to look is Common Sense Media, which reviews anything tech-related from a parent, teacher, and child perspective. You can find them at commonsensemedia.org. While there are millions of players available to watch on the internet, here is a list of a few who are considered family-friendly:

  • Dakotaz is a clean streamer with Fortnight skills that are bound to impress viewers.
  • Mr Bee is a 13-year-old Fortnight streamer who makes age-appropriate content for his peers.
  • Halfcoordinated is a Twitch streamer who is an accessibility advocate for gaming. He uses a dyslexic-friendly font to caption his videos and promotes anti-discrimination. 
  • TNBRFrags (aka PrestonPlayz) streams games including Fortnight, Roblox, and Minecraft and has been making child-appropriate content for five years. 

Further reading

Parent guide to Gaming

Our experts' guide to finding a healthy balance with gaming and red flags to look out for.

Parent Guide to Screen Time

Our experts' guide to healthy screen time management.

Setting a screen routine

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