Technology has grown in leaps and bounds over the past decade; it’s never been easier to connect with our family and friends regardless of schedule or location. Video chatting is gaining increasing popularity as one of the best ways to visit and stay close to the special people in our life. Skype and other video conferencing services are still popular–both for casual visits as well as for formal business transactions. However, social media is still growing, providing new apps specifically designed for video chatting. Leading the charge, recently released “House Party” is changing the way we video chat. Released in 2016, this app became an overnight sensation; it’s still growing with over 1 million users. With its easy accessibility and fun, casual, atmosphere, House Party seems like the perfect way for anyone, especially teens, to connect with their friends. As parents, it’s important to keep a few key aspects in mind before your teen gets this “party” started.
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How Does House Party Work?
The creators of House Party took video chatting to a whole new level. Unlike the limited chatting capability of Skype or Facebook Live, House Party allows users to simultaneously chat with up to 8 separate friends. Although chatting with 8 people all at once may sound chaotic or confusing, House Party creators used this potential issue to give their app a true “party-like” feel. Using a split screen feature, your device’s screen breaks into separate chat boxes–one for each member of your party. This allows you to see every member of your video chat in real-time as you visit.
Creating an account with House Party is relatively simple. After creating a unique username, you can add your phone number to give the app access to your contact list. This automatically allows you access to anyone on your list. If you wish to skip your phone number, you can also manually enter the House Party username of anyone you wish to chat with.
After creating an account, you are free to create “rooms” for separate video chats. These rooms allow you to add up to 8 friends to your video chat. Chat requests are sent out to your friends via notifications through the app or through SMS text messages. As soon as your friends respond, your video chat is ready to begin. The real-time accessibility of this app allows friends’ to enjoy each others’ company as though they were all in the same room.
What’s Good About the App?
This app is relatively secure. When creating “rooms” for video chats, you are given specific control to pick who exactly you wish to chat with. These rooms come with filters to block out anyone not explicitly invited. This prevents eavesdropping and unwanted snooping.
Accounts are also secure. Although you may receive requests to chat from anyone, you are free to ignore these requests and stay silent. This app is a two-way street; no video chat can begin without agreement from both users. Currently, no privacy leaks or scandals have been traced back to this app. However, we see the potential so talk to your teen extensively about your rules for using this app if you do allow them use it and we suggest checking in on occasion to make sure that the app is being used like you discussed.
One of the greatest features of the app is its simple, clean interface. Users enjoy friends’ company without buffering and other technical bugs. Frequent updates help keep this app working smoothly. In terms of its features and usability, it currently holds 3.4 rating on Google Play.
- Relationship Friendly
For teens in long-distance relationships with family members and friends, if used properly House Party can be a safe, enjoyable way to keep in touch with loved ones. Because this app allows so many users to chat simultaneously, it’s the perfect way to bring groups together at a moment’s notice.
What Should Parents be Concerned About?
Although this app possesses good security filters, it doesn’t always explicitly warn you to use them. If you don’t take the time to “lock” your chat room and choose private settings, others can pop into the video chat. Although you may have chosen to chat with a few specific friends, any of their mutual friends or yours can choose to enter the chat if the privacy filters are not in use. While mutual friends are not necessarily dangerous strangers, leaving your chat rooms open is still is a bit of a privacy concern.
If your teen isn’t aware of the privacy filters or simply forgets to use them, eavesdroppers can sneak into their chats. When video chatting, be sure you and your teen remember to switch the privacy filters on. This keeps video chats private and secure.
However, as an extra privacy feature, House Party gives a “stranger danger” warning if an uninvited user sneaks into the chat. This warning shows that someone’s mutual friend has decided to enter the chat room. Many times, this warning isn’t viewed with too much worry. Some teens admit that this is how some types of flirting take place over the app. Many view the stranger warning as playful “trolling” from a safe friend.
- Stranger Danger
House Party doesn’t use any type of age verification. If you’re chatting with friends or acquaintances, this isn’t a huge issue; you know who you’re chatting with. However, because this app has no age limit, it’s vital that your teen only chats with friends or classmates that they know in person. With its 1 million+ users, any person from any age group is available for a spontaneous video chat. Keeping the chatting between close friends and family is the best safety policy to avoid the innate stranger danger of many social media apps. We strongly encourage you to talk to your teens and set these rules from the beginning if you plan on allowing them to use this app.
- Explicit Content
With social media, mature content is an innate risk. “Sexting” and other types of explicit material are an ever-growing risk in some teenage circles. Although House Party doesn’t necessarily encourage this type of behavior, it can become a potential enabler for risque flirting and dangerous relationships. Always check with your teen about who they’re chatting with and what types of conversations are taking place. It’s always best to keep these video chats out in the open to avoid the dangers that can take place behind closed doors.
Overall, House Party ranks well both with teens and their parents. The simple account setup and adequate safety filters, allow relatively worry-free video chatting. This app is useful for far more than just casual conversation. It has some valuable applications outside of pure recreation. Older teens and college students enjoy using this app for study sessions and school projects. This app can also be useful for work-related meetings and other types of group project-planning.
If at any time House Party becomes a problem, your teen is not ready for the app or you would just like your teen to take a break from the it. Netsanity has now added this app to our revolutionary appblocker making it easy for parents to block and unblock the app with just a touch.
Also published on Medium.