Houseparty App Overview
Houseparty is a social media app designed for group video chats. Despite the fact that its name and logo alludes to teen parties, the app offers a secure, convenient way for young people to chat with multiple friends simultaneously with low risk of encountering strangers; provided privacy safeguards are strictly followed. As with any messaging app, parents should be aware of sexting, privacy and cyberbullying risks.
Features for Parental Caution
- No age verification
- Not recommended for children under 13
- Parents should know if a child under 18 has the app
- Recommended to ‘lock’ chats to keep them private
- Low privacy risks
- Low to moderate risk of sexting and cyberbullying
- Low risk of exposure to sexual content
What Parents Should Know About The Houseparty App
Houseparty is free to download. Designed as a video chatting app, it features live texts and a split screen that allows up to eight participants to join a group video chat at once. If a user makes use of in-built mechanisms to protect privacy, the app can provide a safe and fun way for teens to keep in touch with friends and family.
The most important feature for parents and users to understand and proactively use is the ‘lock room’ feature. It is recommended that teens ‘lock’ each room once all desired members have joined the conversation and only interact with people they know in person. With careful and consistent use of the lock feature, teens are unlikely to encounter strangers on the app.
However, the app’s strong privacy protections may falsely lead teens into believing that everything shared within a chat is private. This may not be the case if one user violates the other chat participants’ privacy by taking a screenshot and sharing it via text, email or social media without their knowledge or permission.
All messaging apps come with a heightened risk of sexting and cyberbullying. Teens should be cautious when interacting with friends-of-friends they do not know personally or complete strangers and they need to consider their responses if they are asked for or receive sexualised images while in the room. We encourage parents to discuss with their teen how to deal with incidents of cyberbullying or harassment on all social media platforms either as a target or a bystander. This is just another ‘forum’ for these types of behaviour to occur.
How The Houseparty App Works
After downloading, you have two options: enter a phone number and allow the app to access your phone’s contacts list, or enter a friend’s Houseparty username manually. Once you add friends, you can see which friends are online and if they are in a conversation or ‘room’. To join a group video chat, a user must have access to a specific link via SMS, a messaging app, or know someone involved in the chat.
Once you have joined a room, you can make it private, which blocks additional people from joining the conversation. Locking the room gives the user specific control over who is allowed to join a chat. To lock the room, press the three dots in the lower left of the chat window and select the option ‘Lock the Room’. If you do not ‘lock’ the room, any friends-of-friends may join the chat even if you do not know them personally. Once they have joined the chat, these people can request to add you as a friend.
A notification will alert you each time a friend opens the app. It is possible to adjust the settings to only receive notifications about specific friends’ activity on the app.
While Houseparty provides a convenient way for teens to chat with multiple friends or family members at once, users should understand how to ‘lock’ each room to protect their privacy. Ideally, no one under the age of 13 should use the app and parents should be aware if a teenager below the age of 18 is using the app.
For the safest experience, teens should only interact with people they personally know on the Houseparty app. We also recommend that parents encourage their teens to avoid talking to people they don’t know well, and exercise caution when talking to friends-of-friends.
Other discussion points may include
- How ‘private chats’ may not be as private as teens expect
- The importance of permission, including the taking and sharing of screenshots
- The risks of talking with friends-of-friends or strangers
- How to deal with cyberbullying if it occurs