Live-streaming app Periscope Used to Groom Children

We Provide Some Online Safety Advice for Parents and Young People

Recent research by the BBC has found evidence of children as young as nine who are being groomed on the live-streaming app Periscope, owned by Twitter.

The Periscope mobile app is predominantly used for recording and sharing live videos. The app works using a Twitter account and therefore only requires one user to ‘follow’ another in order to see content. If security settings are not altered, anyone with a Twitter account can follow, view and comment on any other user’s content, much like when using Twitter itself. The more concerning aspect is the GPS location technology and video sharing abilities of Periscope.

Though like similar social networking apps, Periscope’s minimum age for an account is 13, like with other apps, this is rarely adhered to. Young people often use it as a messenger type app and can easily share what they’re doing in video form. Unlike some other apps, anyone can send a message to another user of Periscope, without having to ‘befriend’ the person first, meaning that if young people are sharing information about themselves, such as location or school, this can easily be found by any other user.

We regularly see news articles posted about social networking sites and apps such as this that can make it easier for perpetrators to find and groom children and young people, and we imagine this creates a lot of worry and concern for parents. Particularly, as many news articles do not give safety advice or guidance or links to websites that can provide this, meaning that parents feel powerless to protect their children.

We thought we’d do a round-up of what parents should know about the app, some guidance in relation to security settings and how to find out more.

Three things parents should know about Periscope

1) The dangers of live streaming video content

Live streaming will always be risky as like most online content, once sent, it becomes very difficult and in many cases impossible to retrieve. Periscope allows users to save videos to their phones that could then be shared in other ways, which is why it’s useful to speak to your child/ren about the type of content they choose to share, even with their friends.

2) Hearts = Popularity

Along with commenting on video posts, users can also “heart” videos. Hearts are similar to likes/loves on other networking sites and are the currency of Periscope, in that posts with the most hearts get higher priority ranking in the app’s ‘Most Loved’ list. It is likely that many young people are striving to get as many hearts for their video shares as possible.

3) Inappropriate content

Though Periscope has strict Community Guidelines explaining that explicit or pornographic content is not to be shared, the nature of live video streaming can make it difficult to police this and therefore, there is always the possibility of seeing explicit imagery.

Your child may not be using Periscope at the moment, but they may in future, so it is worth knowing and understanding the security settings too.

Security settings for each post will need reviewing, so it’s worth going through these settings with your children, rather than having to police their activity. Explaining the dangers involved when people they don’t know are able to see where they are and contact them is also really important, as it is with any website, app or networking service.

Four ways to make Periscope safer to use

1) Restrict who can see videos

All posts can automatically be seen by any other Periscope user – videos and posts are automatically set to public. However when you click on the camera icon on the app, it will allow you to change the audience setting from public to a specific group. Therefore, your child could set up a group of their friends and ensure that any video, referred to as a ‘broadcast’, was only shared with them, rather than the standard ‘public’ setting. They can even share different content with different friends. It’s important that children are aware that without restricting access, anyone will be able to see their videos.

2) Location settings

When you click on the camera icon, you see a screen with ‘what’s happening’ and an arrow beneath it. Clicking the arrow turns on exact location settings, so ensure this is off. It should appear dark. It’s worth your child checking this every time they make a new broadcast.

Understanding the importance of security in a wider context is also important, for example it could be potentially dangerous to publicly share a live video with an identifiable place in it, making the user easy to trace.

3) Restrict user comments

The icon next to the arrow is a speech bubble. Clicking this ensures only people that the user follows can post chats, stopping people they don’t know from being able to comment on their videos. The speech bubble icon should appear lit.

4) Posting to other social channels

The Twitter and Facebook icons also appear under ‘what’s happening’. Clicking these will automatically post the content to the user’s Twitter and Facebook channels. Ensuring these are off can also help to restrict who sees and has access to a young person’s videos.

It’s important not just to rely on security settings though. For example, talking to your children about the apps they use and taking an interest yourself where you can will be helpful when it comes to understanding what apps they use and why.

For more information about Periscope, security settings and online security for children and young people, visit:

NSPCC NetAware and UK Safer Internet Centre



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