Ever heard of the website YouNow? If you answered no, it's probably because you're old.
YouNow is where teens and tweens are flocking these days. It's a website and livestreaming app where at any given moment you can watch teens from around the world as they listen to music, eat, brush their hair, or even sleep. Yes, you heard that right. There is an entire hashtag on YouNow devoted to watching people sleep. Seriously.
According to the latest stats, roughly 4 million members create and watch more than 100 million webcasts on YouNow each month, and millions more are drawn to the website just to watch and comment on other livestreams. More than a third of YouNow users are between the ages of 13 and 18, and another 40 percent are in their early 20s.
Click around for a few minutes on YouNow and you can see teenagers from all over the world livestreaming from their bathrooms, their basements, their cars and even their bedrooms.
Is it any wonder that it's being billed as every parent's worst nightmare?
Click on the #sleepingguard hashtag and you can find dozens of streams where teens are broadcasting themselves as they sleep. Some channels are pitch black, because, well, they're asleep. In others, teens are sleeping with lights, music, and even challenges for their fans to accomplish while they sleep. Why anyone would want to broadcast a livestream of themselves sleeping is beyond me, but then again, I am admittedly old. In Internet years, I am ancient.
Users can browse other channels for #girls, #musicians, #guys, #ask_questions, or the quintessential teen favorite: #bored.
But parents, there is more to YouNow than just teens livestreaming in their skivvies from their bedrooms. There's also money involved.
As broadcasters stream, they can also live chat with users on the site. Everyone can watch and participate in this chat. Generally, users ask inane questions that the broadcaster answers live. If a user really likes a broadcaster, he or she can "tip" them with points, points that are purchased with real money. The broadcaster gets to keep some of that tip, also in real money, after YouNow takes its cut. Users can also pay to "pin" their post or question to the top of the chat board, enhancing the likelihood that it catches the broadcaster's attention.
But at any given time, you can see users as young as 11 broadcasting from their bedrooms, or young girls in tight dresses blowing kisses for "tips." I didn't even bother clicking on the #truthordare channel because I knew that was way out of this old mom's league.
So parents, are you freaking out? I will admit that I freaked out a bit when I saw the site. But as with anything teen-related, the real key is knowing what your teens are doing. Tweens and teens today are growing up not just with the Internet, but on the Internet. So it's not strange at all for them to broadcast themselves eating a bowl of cereal or for them to watch other teens as they put on makeup.
Just because your teen is watching YouNow or even broadcasting on YouNow doesn't mean she is necessarily in danger. But if she is broadcasting behind locked doors or spending all of her money on "tips" for other broadcasters, it's time for a little more oversight. Make that a lot more oversight.
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