Everyone needs their “third place.”
The third place is explained by sociologists as
“the coffeehouse, the bar, the mall — a public space for relaxing, socializing, sharing ideas, or goofing off.” –TechCrunch
Your kids are finding an online version of that public space and it’s in an app called Houseparty. Houseparty is a group live “hangout” or video chat app and it’s been increasingly popular in high schools since May. This app provides a way for teens to connect with friends away from the pressures of school, work, or even parents. It gives them that “third place” to unwind. It gives them an opportunity to be social, but is it really social?
“Despite the positive impact of emerging communication technologies on scientific research, our results provide striking evidence for the role of physical proximity as a predictor of the impact of collaborations.” – Harvard Medical School
Relationships are better built in person. More and more research is showing that time spent near your friends is more important even than time spent talking with them. While video chatting allows for group conversation, it doesn’t allow for the mannerism cues and continuous turn taking. (Bejing Normal University) To say that using a video chat to build relationships is good for our kids, or at least better than nothing, is not really accurate.
How It Works
The Houseparty app uses your contact list to automatically log you in with up to eight friends who are online when you open the app. You don’t set up or invite people to conversations, it just puts you in a room to hangout with whoever is on. So using your contacts list ensures that you’re hopefully only chatting with friends. You may, however, have the contacts of some folks you aren’t interested in chatting with. There is a “stranger danger” feature that will alert the user if someone joins the chat that isn’t on their contact list. This is a pretty good feature.
What Parents Should Do.
I think this app is trying to get a lot right. While there can always be concern with video chatting, simply because anything created with good intentions can easily be used to do something inappropriate. Similar to the AfterSchool app, I would say Houseparty is something that parents should be aware of and talk to their kids about but I wouldn’t advise uninstalling on sight, necessarily. Whether or not your are ok with your children building their relationships through online communication is up to you.