We have received a lot of questions about the increasingly popular app 'Houseparty' along with some worrying stories where children have ended up in unwanted situations where strangers have joined their chats.
With this in mind we are putting this post out in the hope that it will better enable parents to ensure that their children and indeed themselves stay safe and un-compromised while using the app.
Houseparty has been around since 2016 and has always been popular with teenagers. The current situation has caused the use of the app to increase dramatically. The user base has changed to include first time adult users and younger children trying to stay in touch with friends.
When you sign up to Houseparty you are prompted to link it to all of your contacts, both on your device and contacts from Facebook and Snapchat. Once linked the app recognises any contacts that are already signed up to Houseparty.
When you start the app you are then shown by default as being 'in the house' i.e. online. Any of your contacts can then invite you to join a live chat.
If you push the home screen up you will see any ongoing 'House Parties' (group chats) that your contacts are involved in. This process applies to everyone, so, if you are in a chat with 3 friends for example, anyone of their contacts that see the chat is happening can then 'drop in'. This is obviously where a risk presents itself. Literally anyone could enter the chat so it could be someones boss or worse still, a person looking to exploit children.
If you push the home screen to the side you can then access any private video messages someone may have sent you. There is even a facility for people to enter the chat in 'Sneak' mode so you wouldn't know they were there.
If you are using this app or more importantly, letting your children use it, you should think about taking some simple measures to prevent uninvited guests crashing the party.
When using the app you will see an 'UNLOCKED PADLOCK' at the bottom of the screen.
Once you have added the people you want in an active chat you should then press this padlock. The chat will then be locked to any new visitors. Any of the people in the 'party' can lock the chat. What you don't want, is a bad person that has entered a chat locking it therefore stopping a parent dropping in and seeing what is going on.
Also at the bottom of the chat stream you have THREE DOTS in the bottom left corner. If you click on these you have an option to disable your webcam.
The other button to the bottom right of the chat stream which is a MICROPHONE can be pressed to turn off the active mic.
As long as you set up a group chat and then immediately lock it you should be okay. Please make sure that any children using it realise it is very easy for any user to screen capture them during the chat, so you need to make sure they are appropriately dressed.