What is houseparty?
Houseparty, currently acquired by Epic Games who created Fortnite, is a social network and group video chat service. It is accessible on mobile and desktop via the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store. It is also iOS and Android compatible. During the outbreak of COVID-19, there has been a large increase in users downloading and using Houseparty. This is likely due to the self-isolation and physical distancing required to tackle the spread of the virus. This app uses the metaphor “Houseparty” to give off the impression that users are having a party together as they would at a houseparty or session.
How it might be used?
Users may want to use this app to interact with their friends particularly during the COVID-19 isolation phases. In this way, users can download the app via the usual app download stores and create an account for free. Up to 8 people can join in per party. But some users can choose to be anonymous and do a thing called “ghosting“. This means that they do not have reveal that they are in a particular party (also called “Sneaking“), and can control what kind of notifications they receive. There is also a gaming element to Houseparty. Users can get “wins” by inviting others and prompting others to join their party.
This app also has social media integration. This means that it can connect into other social media apps like Facebook and Snapchat. Older users could use this app for drinking games, nudity, and coarse language. Since this appears to be associated with the Houseparty metaphor, it is cautioned that younger users could be exposed to such explicit content.
Is it free or do you have to pay for it?
Houseparty is free to download and use.
How can you tell if your child has downloaded it?
When Houseparty has been downloaded on a Smartphone, it will have the following App logo design. This will be displayed on the app homepage. If this is not visible, you can check whether Houseparty has been downloaded onto the phone through the App Store. Also you may be able locate your child’s Houseparty activity by searching for it.
The above image might be the most recent logo used to denote Houseparty as an app. However, there has been a previous logo such as the one below to signify a disposable beer cup which is associated with American house parties.
How can we stay safe on it?
Our advice is to discuss your privacy and safety concerns with the child before permitting use of any app with a social element. Tacklebullying.ie does not advise younger users to use Houseparty in the event of exposure to explicit content that cannot be regulated quickly by its moderators. We could not find a comprehensive online safety/anti-bullying policy for users to consult on Houseparty’s website. There are user controls that users can manipulate in order to control some of their usage. But these user controls may not be useful if the exposure content by other users is explicit. Tacklebullying.ie note that Houseparty needs to develop further online safety policies before encouraging any kind of independent use for young people.
How do I talk to my child about it?
Have the conversation,
‘I heard about this app which may pose some risks, it would be great if we could talk about the safety of the apps you’re using and make sure you know how to adjust privacy settings and are aware of who can see the content you’re posting there. I want you to know that (the rest the same) I want you to know that if you ever feel concerned about any apps or websites you use you can come and talk to me about them.’