The Houseparty app lets users have group chats and play games with friends without leaving the house. The social network launched in 2016, but is more popular now than ever as people around the world are self-isolating and practicing social distancing. Houseparty was downloaded more than two million times in just one week of March 2020, according to App Annie. But is it safe for students? The Smart Social team created this app guide to let parents and educators know how Houseparty works and the stranger dangers that lurk on the app.
What is the Houseparty app?
- Houseparty is a video chat app that mimics an actual house party where users can move from “room” to “room” video chatting with others
- Users can chat with 2-8 people at the same time
- They can also text friends and play games together on the app
- Houseparty encourages users to have frequent, candid conversations with their family, friends, and friends of friends
- The app creates a live, always-on place that you can dip in and out of whenever you want
- Epic Games (the developer of Fortnite) owns Houseparty
- It is rated for kids ages 12+ in the iOS App Store
- The app asks for your phone number and permission to access your camera, mic, and location
- It also asks for permission to access your phone contacts and social media contacts
- Friends get a notification that you’re “around” whenever you log in
- You can tap a little hand-waving emoji to say hi, and a phone-call emoji to video call
- You can tap the dice icon to play games or trivia during chats
- You can tap the lock icon to make the chat private and prevent anyone else from entering the room
- Users are alerted when a friend of a friend enters the chat
Houseparty app in the news
‘Houseparty has a big base around teenagers and always has… [But] with everything that’s going on, a bunch of adults now have the time and need for new connections,’ [said Ben Rubin, Houseparty’s co-founder.]–Financial Times
“The group video chat is the perfect app for Generation Z to continue their disconnect with physical reality.” –Forbes
“Because there’s no screening and the video is live, there’s always the possibility of inappropriate content for children.” –Common Sense Media
Why should parents care?
- All chats are unmoderated, which means students can come in contact with inappropriate behavior or cyberbullies
- Friends of friends can enter a chat, so students could be exposed to strangers
- The app does notify users when a stranger enters the room – so they can choose to leave or stay
- Users can screenshot their video or text chats and post that private content to social media
- Teens can use this app for sexting and other inappropriate behaviors
What can parents do?
- Review the features of the app with your student. If you decide Houseparty is okay for your teen, then:
- Tell them not to share their location on the app
- Encourage them to exit the chat if a stranger enters the conversation
- Teach them to keep their chats in private mode by using the lock icon
- Remind students to ask themselves “How would I feel if this conversation was shown publicly to my peers, neighbors, or to my relatives?” before texting or saying something in a group chat…. even if they think the chat is private
Houseparty offers older students a fun way to socialize. But parents should take note of the risk factors before deciding if it’s a good app for younger students to use. You can read about other chat apps on the Smart Social App Zones page.