What you need to know about the app Houseparty

Note: In September 2021, the operator of Houseparty announced that the app would be discontinued and no longer available in the app stores. | Suddenly, it's back in the top 10 app stores. The group video calling app called Houseparty. During the Corona crisis, the demand for simple video calling apps skyrocketed and Houseparty is currently enjoying great popularity as well - especially among kids and teens. However, without the right privacy settings and rules of conduct, using this app is fraught with danger.

What is Houseparty?

The Houseparty app is a platform for video telephony in groups. To use it, you create an account (which is optionally connected to Snapchat), open a virtual video room, and then invite up to seven additional friends. They can chat, chat, or even play games together.

Why is Houseparty so popular right now?

Even though the app is currently only available in English, it fits in very well with the reality of life for children and young people. After all, the current trend is to stay at home and avoid physical social contact! But that doesn't mean you have to do without your best friends - on the contrary, they are especially important right now. And Houseparty helps to bring them into your own room, at least digitally. The app's functionality is reduced to the essentials: hanging out together, sharing videos and playing mini-games.

Is there an age restriction?

Officially, Houseparty cannot be used by anyone under the age of 13. However, this minimum age hardly plays a role in practice, as younger children can also download and use the app without any problems.

What are the risks of using the app?

  • Cost traps:
    Although the app is free, in-app purchases can be used to buy various add-ons in the games, so spending can quickly pile up.
  • Unwanted participants or joiners:
    If a room is not locked, any digitally confirmed friend can easily join the video chat. However, friends of participating friends, i.e. people completely unknown to the actual creator of the chat room, can also join. The lock icon should be used here to secure chat rooms. If strangers now try to join, this is no longer possible so easily, but must first be confirmed by the administrator of the group.
  • Unwanted contact:
    The app offers the option of searching for users by name. Accounts of strangers are also displayed. This function cannot be deactivated. It is also possible to search for people in the immediate vicinity if this option has not been deactivated (see tips below). These functions allow strangers to send friend requests to children and young people - so there is a risk of cyber-grooming (see More information below).
  • Harassment:
    In addition to the video function, chats can also be used to contact other people. In this case, the app offers the option of unfriending or also blocking or reporting people.
  • Monitoring:
    The "Ghosting" function can be used to set who is allowed to see whether you are currently using the app or not.
  • Unwanted recordings:
    In the app there is the option to record your screen and either save it locally or share it on other messengers (Facebook Messenger, Google Hangout, Zoom, etc.). The other participants or attendees are not informed about this.
  • Data sharing:
    The app diligently collects data and transmits it to Facebook, for example (see More information below).

Tips for use

  • Before using the app, talk to young people about what distinguishes conversations with good friends from conversations with acquaintances or even strangers. What topics are appropriate and what topics may be inappropriate? Possible courses of action when insecurities or unpleasant situations arise (for example, ending the video chat, reporting or blocking users, or turning to trusted adults) should also be discussed in advance. Since Houseparty offers many opportunities to be contacted by strangers, how to handle such contact requests should be discussed.
  • Make sure that no persons suddenly appear in your own live videowithout being asked. This also applies to younger siblings, for example.
  • Agree on common rules (e.g. no one is allowed to take screenshots or record the video conference without asking).
  • How to report and block contacts or chats: By shaking the phone, it is possible to report a video chat. In this case, the app automatically takes a screenshot to document the inappropriate behavior. Reporting or blocking is also possible afterwards. To do so, select the smiley icon in the upper left, go to "My Friends" and select the contact you want to block or report. To the right of the name, three dots are displayed, which you have to select in order to choose from the two options.
  • Make important privacy settings (can be found at the top left by the smiley icon):
    • Manage Notification: Here you can set who is allowed to see that you have just logged in.
    • Red gear (top left): It is best to deactivate all items except "Camera and Mic" and optionally "Notification".
    • Activate "Private Mode": This automatically creates a lock for a new chat room so that no uninvited guests can join.

This article is based on information from our partners in the European network. We would like to thank the Austrian and British Safer Internet Centre. 

Further information