Video chat apps can help families cross great distances, whether they’re social or physical. And Houseparty has helped to cross that divide, sped along by its association with the popular social game Fortnite. But should parents be adding Houseparty to their parental control software block list?
What Is Houseparty? The Basics
Houseparty is a video chat app developed by Life on Air and owned by Epic Games, creators of Fortnite. It tends to be popular among Fortnite users.
Chats are “invite-only.” Hence, users must be mutual friends to be on a chat.
The app does not come with public profiles. Instead, users contact each other via username, although names and profile photos are visible. When you open the app, unless you configure it otherwise, it alerts your friends, and only your friends, that you’re “in the house.”
It’s available on iOS, Android, macOS, Windows, and as an extension for the Google Chrome browser. But there are currently no parental controls.
It also offers simple “party games” like Uno, Heads Up!, and others that can be played by anyone, adding to its popularity.
Are Kids Allowed To Use Houseparty?
In theory, Houseparty users are supposed to be 13 and up. Yet, the app has no verification tools, and as there’s no public-facing profile in the first place, it seems mostly to not be relevant. As it’s a violation of the app’s terms of service, it’s probably best to either have parents sign up for an account kids are allowed to use with the parent in the room.
Of more concern to parents are probably the app’s near-total lack of enforcement mechanisms. While there are the standard tools to report crude and abusive behavior, and blocking or reporting users is relatively simple, there’s nothing beyond that for concerned parents. Similarly, it doesn’t appear that users are forbidden from opening a new account if their old one is blocked.
Another aspect of the app is that unless you “sneak into the house” or disable certain notifications, it instantly alerts your friend’s list that you’re on the app. All that said, the app’s party-game focus makes it worth investigating for families who are coordinating distanced social events, depending on your digital parenting style.
Are There Any Risks to Houseparty?
There was a reported data breach in the app in March 2020, but since the app collects so little data in the first place, the risks seem somewhat minimal, although the standard privacy concerns remain. That said, like any video chat app, Houseparty has its risks.
Before kids sign up, though, families should take a few steps.
- Kids should know the signs of cyberbullying and feel comfortable talking to you about it.
- Profile pictures should be checked carefully for any information families don’t want out there.
- Family screen time contracts should apply to Houseparty.
- Kids should only friend people they know in real life on any app.
- Parental control software should be used to enforce schedules and protect family time.
- Notifications should be disabled, and chats should be planned in advance.
Maintaining social connections from a distance doesn’t have to be hard for families. With the right rules and the right parental control software, video chat apps like Houseparty can be used safely. To learn more, try it for free!