How to approach streaming and creating content for kids
Television is no stranger to our family. Usually there’s a kids’ version of programming on screen, whether it’s family movie nights or streaming services like Netflix Kids or Disney+, some kid-friendly content is always on the air – even at night when all is quiet, I can still hear the children’s songs haunting my living room. When we can’t take it anymore and need some semblance of adult communication, we usually pawn our son off our TV onto his own streaming devices like his tablet. He enjoys his own programs at his own pace, and mom and dad enjoy a moment of peace.
That’s when we discovered his love for watching people do things he could do on his own, like playing with toy cars or flying a kite. YouTube Kids lets kids watch whatever they want while leaving parents peace of mind knowing that its content is specially designed for little minds. The videos are usually cartoons which you can find on most kid-friendly channels, but people have also started making live-action videos of… well, some of the weirder stuff.
The first videos I remember our son obsessed over were called unboxing videos. Kids – and sometimes adults – would film themselves opening up brand new toys and playing with them for a little while, and the kids loved it. If I let him, he’d be stuck to that thing for hours.
Now that he’s a bit older, his taste in videos has changed. He still listens to the occasional cartoon, but he seems to have moved on to bigger and better things. He found Twitch, a streaming service where gamers can tune in and view their gameplay in real time, allowing fans to watch. You can stream the app on your phone, tablet, or computer, and you can watch streamers play almost any game you can think of.
The platformer is great fun, but safe for kids? Not really. YouTube is another favorite because he can watch clips of video games he likes. But there are still links on the side of the page that allow easy access to other content, making it difficult to keep track of what he’s watching.
“I think it’s important for parents to do a bit of research and understand how streaming and platforms work.”
I always preach about keeping our kids safe online, so I mention that giving kids access to Twitch is a bit counterproductive. The site does not offer parental controls and users under the age of 13 are not allowed to have an account, so they also do not promote it to children. The good news is that this means more family time! When we watch streamers, it’s always together. I rely on me to be the parental control settings, that way we can avoid mature content, and I participate in the type of programming they choose.
Not only do I think you need to be involved in what your kids watch, but I think it’s important for parents to do a bit of research and understand how streaming and platforms work. The more tools you arm yourself with, the better you can protect your children.
One of our favorite streamers and content creators is @intensejames. It can be found on most social media platforms like @intensejames, but we tend to favor his Twitch and YouTube channels. He started streaming family gaming content daily after the pandemic hit and quickly discovered a passion for it. Originally, he worked in the gaming industry and created Fortnite videos for Facebook, TikTok, and YouTube as a hobby. It was important to me to find someone I knew who was dedicated to creating a safe space for families, so I could relax a bit and sit back and enjoy with my son.
I recently had the chance to have a chat with @intensejames and found it fascinating to see how someone with no regular experience with children managed to create a series of content across multiple platforms, while still keeping a place clean and safe for us to introduce our kids to streaming and video game content. He said he chose to stream to all ages, believing it “can make it interesting for families to spend time together during these difficult times.” I am inclined to agree.
It was great to take a break from good old Peppa Pig and enjoy gaming content I can trust. Not only to watch, but also to learn. Many streamers give tips and tricks in the games they play, so you and your child can improve while you have fun!
Most @intensejames viewers and followers are teenagers, but many are younger and range in age into their 60s. He also invites his viewers in the stream to play with him in the game. The game has been around for a long time, and now every generation has the chance to experience these new platforms together. Most streamers will assign moderators to their platform. These people control the chat room by deleting, blocking or banning inappropriate users or comments from the page.
This allows the streamer to keep the chat clean and ensure it is a safe online environment for all ages. Chat isn’t the only challenge, as a lot of adults are the ones streaming, and we know we don’t always have the best habits with our language. My kids certainly know a few words that I’d rather not admit to teaching them. @intensejames said being aware of this in all of his content has helped him become a better role model for young people.
As a mom and small-scale streamer myself, it’s really important to me to find a way to do the things I love while keeping my content relevant for the most impressionable viewers. I started using a program called Streamlabs OBS which helps me customize, broadcast and even moderate my streams. This means I’m better able to do things like tag my stream in case it’s not a game for young audiences or monitor what people are saying in my chat room to make sure it’s is a safe place when I stream to younger viewers.
The main version of the software allows me to stream on multiple platforms simultaneously if I want to. I have connected my Twitch, Facebook and YouTube to my account, but so far Twitch has been my favorite. I find it’s the easiest for me to navigate, and if it’s easy for me to navigate, I can better be sure what I’m watching with my son — or what I’m streaming to other kids — is the right type of content for us. OBS Streamlabs comes stacked with apps that allow streamers to engage their viewers, so far the cutest I’ve found is Bongo Cat, and cute has to count for something.
My son is also obsessed with his dad’s small-scale YouTube channel, where he posts pre-recorded clips of fortnite, many of which our child has been featured in. It’s fun to watch him light up when he sees his character running across the screen or when he remembers a particular battle. Recently he found out that I was streaming after he went to bed. It was an argument. He started going out after bedtime almost every night trying to catch me in the act and spent most of his free time begging me to let him stream too.
One afternoon I went live on Twitch on Animal Crossing: New Horizons no camera or voice chat. I let him run around and watch himself on the computer screen, and he felt like he was famous. Let’s be clear, I have very few viewers, but for him, it felt like he was on top of the world. Sometimes all it takes is a few moments of sharing your hobbies to make your kids feel on top of the world.
My brother adopted the same approach with his eldest, my niece. We are a family of gamers and nerds, to say the least. Right now, he has several projects underway, including a podcast and a stream of his own. Lately, my 10 year old niece has also taken up this hobby. It allowed her to start her own YouTube channel where she creates all her own content, records it, and then asks her dad to edit and upload it.
It’s become a little hobby they can do together, dad/daughter time, if you want. Our kids see what excites us, they see what we do, and they want to be included too, in every way possible. I can’t think of a better way to bring us together while honoring our geeky nature at its core.
Allowing screen time before bed is supposed to be a giant no-no, but sometimes it melts my heart to see my son snuggle up in his dad’s lap and whisper – in his most manipulative and sweeter – “Just one more video, dad?” I love seeing them share an interest that excites them and drives them to spend quality time together, even if that sometimes means staying up a little late.
Whether you’re streaming movies, playing games, or watching streams, as a parent, making sure your child is enjoying what they’re doing is just as important as making sure they’re doing it safely. . Do your research, find the right platform for your family, and find the streamers and content creators that meet your needs and values. They could play fortnite Where Mario Kart, Minecraft Where Rocket League. There are family creators for everyone. It’s up to you to find them!