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Facebook Gaming: what parents should know

facebook gaming

Game streaming is a big deal. It offers you the chance to livestream yourself as you play your favourite games, or to watch others as they do the same – and it’s now one of the most popular forms of entertainment among some young people.  

Social media giant Facebook is not one to miss out on a trend, and launched its own game-streaming platform a couple of years ago, in the form of the aptly named Facebook Gaming. 

It’s already been enormously successful on desktop, but is now ready for the next stage in its life with the launch of a dedicated mobile app, which aims to give users a purer gaming experience.

Here’s everything you need to know about the new Facebook Gaming app and advice on how to help your child use it in a safe and enjoyable way.

What is Facebook Gaming?

It’s Facebook’s very own game streaming service, launched back in January 2018 in response to the growing trend. Although it arrived to little fanfare, it is now the fourth-biggest service in the streaming landscape and also the fastest-growing – boasting a 210 per cent increase in hours watched in 2019.

The standalone app gives users the chance to stream themselves and watch their favourite streamers battle it out on the most popular games, independently from the main social media platform.

How does Facebook Gaming work?

Whereas anyone can access the browser version of Facebook Gaming, you need a Facebook account to use the app. When you open it for the first time, you’ll be prompted to log in and customise your feed by selecting the games and streamers you’d like to follow. 

Anyone with a gaming page – so established streamers who appear in search – can be followed without needing permission. If someone's streaming casually through their profile using the 'Public' privacy setting, though, you can watch that one stream, but you’ll have to send them a friend request to receive updates.

With that done, you can jump straight into any livestream or start one yourself.

When you’re watching a livestream, you can interact with the community by posting comments and sending emojis and ‘likes’. Facebook Gaming also has a paid-for feature called ‘Stars’ – a feature very similar to Twitch’s ‘Bits’ – which are virtual items you can send to a streamer to show appreciation.

One of the features that makes Facebook Gaming stand out from competitors such as Twitch and Mixer is how easy it is to start your own stream. Typically, you would need to use Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) to get started; this is a free program for video recording and livestreaming, which you have to download separately. 

With the Facebook Gaming app, however, that’s not needed: all you need to do is hit the ‘Go Live’ button at the top of the page and you can broadcast any mobile game with only a few clicks.

Is Facebook Gaming any good?

It’s slightly lacking in bells and whistles compared to some rivals, but Facebook Gaming offers a clean and simple streaming experience that will appeal to many. The app is intuitive, easy to navigate and is a great tool for users to delve deeper into their gaming interest.

Those familiar with other streaming apps such as Twitch and Mixer probably won’t find much here that they haven’t seen before, but the streaming process is largely hassle-free due to the fact that you don’t need an OBS, and that alone will be enough to win it fans. 

If your child has a Facebook profile, Facebook Gaming is a good way to take their gaming passion to the next level while staying connected to the community they’ve already built up.

What are the potential risks?

  • Oversharing: It’s extremely easy to broadcast on the Facebook Gaming app – perhaps a little too easy. The icon is always at the top of the page and in the bottom-right corner as you scroll, making it easy to hit by mistake. Once you’ve clicked ‘Go Live’ you only have to select a game and the option to stream your screen will appear. Underneath the profile name, there’s a small box which specifies who can see the stream – only you, all your friends or everyone. Make sure to tap this box until it says ‘All friends’ if you’re not comfortable with your child streaming publicly. If your child is a streamer, make sure they’re being mindful of what they’re sharing and that they don’t give away personal information. There’s no ‘undo’ button – so what’s done is done.
  • No age verification: Facebook Gaming does not require users to verify their age, so your child can access streams of all games – including those with 18+ PEGI ratings. Although you must technically be 13 years old to create a Facebook profile, the browser version of Facebook Gaming does not require users to be logged in, which means there’s no way to restrict who can see what.
  • Hard to moderate: Anything can happen in real time, so streams are extremely difficult to moderate and children and young people are sometimes exposed to inappropriate language or hate speech. Many popular streamers have human moderators going through the comments as they are posted, but moderation happens after the fact. By the time the moderators remove an abusive or harmful comment, the damage could already have been done.
  • Monetisation: Facebook Gaming is completely free to use, but there’s a big push to get young people to spend money. It doesn’t have a subscription service like Twitch yet, but many streamers ask for support in the form of donations or ‘Stars’.

If you want to find out more about the risks of livestreaming, be sure to check out our parent guide.

How can I help my child be safe when streaming?

Streaming can be a very enriching experience for children and young people, but it’s crucial to help them understand the potential risks they could encounter and how to manage them. Facebook Gaming doesn’t offer much in terms of settings and safety features, which makes talking to your child all the more important.

Explain to them how streaming is different from, say, YouTube videos. On YouTube, the videos have been edited and checked by moderators for inappropriate content – on livestreams, however, anything can happen – so there’s a higher risk of seeing or hearing things that could upset them. Similarly, if they stream themselves it’s important that they are mindful of what they say and share with their audience.

Ask them to also think critically about what they see in streams. Facebook Gaming is free to use, but many streamers will try to incentivise their viewers to make a donation to support their work. 
Let them know that they can always come to you if they have any questions or if they’ve come across something that made them feel uncomfortable.

Lastly, make sure they know how to report a video or livestream if they spot inappropriate content.

How to report a video

  • Find the video you wish to report in the feed
  • Tap the three-dot menu in the top-right corner of the post
  • When the menu appears, select ‘Find support or report’
  • Describe how the video was inappropriate and complete the steps

How to report a livestream

  • Find the stream you wish to report in the feed
  • Tap the screen to bring up the icons and then hit the three-dot menu in the top-right corner of the stream
  • When the menu appears, select ‘Find support or report video’
  • Describe how the video was inappropriate and complete the steps

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