Another week, another social media app your offspring has downloaded that maybe-you-should-be-worried-about-but-maybe-it's-fine-and-you-should-choose-your-battles. The latest one that's creeping into our world is Houseparty, a group video chat app. Here's all the scoop you'll need for deciding whether it's cool for your kid or not.
It's kind of like a group Facetime
Though it was created by the makers of Meerkat – a public broadcasting app – Houseparty is very different in that it allows users to communicate in private live group video chats. Each "room" (kind of a video version of the old AOL chat rooms, not that our kids have ever heard of AOL), maxes out at eight people, and looks kind of like the Brady Bunch credits opener when that many people are in it.
It's meant for communicating with people you already know, ostensibly friends.
Users can add friends from their phones' contact list and, when they open the app, they'll be alerted as to whether any friends are also using it and then decide if they want to join the rooms their friends are in. The word "friends" here carries a bit more weight than on Facebook since the person's contact info will be in your kid's phone already, ostensibly meaning they really and truly know them.
It alerts you when someone you don't know enters.
A Stranger Danger warning flashes on the screen when someone the user doesn't know enters the room. In this case "stranger" is a pretty broad category since it just means someone not in their contacts, which could simply be the younger sister of someone in the room or a total creep, but it's worth discussing with your kid on what to do if he or she sees the warning.
It's got a "secretive" background, which amps up the cool factor.
The interesting backstory is too long to go into here, but basically those behind the app made up a fake background about the developers to keep everyone (including media and potential investors) in the dark and did a grassroots marketing campaign at college campuses around the country, where it quickly gained popularity.
It could actually be used for studying.
Many articles about the app being used by college students mention that, in addition to the social aspect, it's also a tool for study groups or asking each other questions about tough homework assignments. Whether kids have the willpower to stick to studying is another story.
Bottom line: The app can clearly be used in a fun and safe way, but– like everything else in teendom – it also could lend itself to leaving certain kids out. There's also the issue of making sure your kid isn't in a room with someone they don't know and that they don't say or do anything they wouldn't want the world to know about. Basically, all of your usual social media rules should apply. Happy Housepartying!