Patostreaming – A new concern for Polish parents and educators

  • Awareness
  • 13/07/2020
  • Polish Safer Internet Centre

The internet as a medium is often hailed as an invention facilitating creative, personal expression. However, even tools designed to empower can be used for nefarious purposes. Some creators of web content find their niche market thanks to their willingness to do almost anything to become the centre of attention. This is the case with "Patostreaming", a new type of online threat in Poland. According to a 2018 "Nastolatki 3.0" (Teenagers 3.0) study, almost a quarter of Polish students aged 15 and 17 have watched such content.

Although the phenomenon bears a foreign-sounding name, "patostreamy" is in fact a Polish term. Popularised by Polish media in numerous publications over the last couple of years, the word itself derives from a teenage slang abbreviation consisting of two stems: "pato" (as in "pathological", from Greek "pathos") and "streamy" (from an English noun "streaming" or the verb "to stream"). Its authors (called "patostreamerzy", pathological streamer) typically live stream offensive, hateful and vulgar content via non-censored video platforms. Sometimes they go even farther and plan, coordinate and carry out attacks on unsuspecting targets: websites, virtual classrooms or even children. Some of them even instigate hateful attacks and condone political violence. "Patostreamy" quickly became an increasing concern for Polish parents, educators and politicians.
 
How did it come about? Due to the digitalisation of personal finance and despite becoming an online trend fairly recently, "patostreaming" quickly became a lucrative profession. Some of the most popular creators of the genre, often called "patoinfluenserzy" (as in "internet influencers") make impressive amounts of money each month via internet crowdfunding sites (such as Patronite, a Polish version of sites like Patronie or GoFundMe). With the growth of e-commerce and internet payment systems, Polish youngsters often have disposable income allowing them to spend money freely and independently. Unknown to their parents, some kids and teenagers decide to spend their digital pocket money on creators of brutal and vulgar web content. With that in mind, the team of social researchers at NASK (a Warsaw-based national research institute, and part of the Polish Safer Internet Centre (SIC)) conducted a nationwide opinion poll in autumn 2019. Its aim was to explore awareness as well as attitudes towards "Patostreamy" among Polish internet users (N=1000).
 
The results clearly show a raising level of awareness of the problem. By the end of 2019, when the study was conducted, over 56 per cent of Poles active online knew what Patostreamy was. Consciousness was even higher among teenagers (76 per cent) and parents (60 per cent). An average internet user encounters such content two to three times a month, mostly (74 per cent) while browsing YouTube or through their Facebook feed. At the same time, a vast majority of parents claim that their kids do not watch them and only 15 per cent of parents said otherwise.
 
"Patostreamy" are almost unanimously (90 per cent) viewed by the respondents as harmful. Polish internet users would also like such content to be blocked by administrators of the portals (80 per cent in favour) or even directly by the police (46 per cent). The full report (in Polish) can be downloaded from NASK's website.
 
Find out more about the work of the Polish Safer Internet Centre (SIC), including its awareness raising, helpline, hotline and youth participation services on the Better Internet for Kids (BIK) portal.

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