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Sunday Mornings with Rania: House Party vs. HouseParty

smwr houseparty 1 Houston Crime Stoppers

I was speaking to a group of women at The Junior League of Houston last week. The topic: A Parent’s Guide to the Risks and Dangers of the Latest Apps and Online Challenges. We went over everything from Instagram, SnapChat, Houseparty, Kik, Spotify and Yellow to covering online “challenges” like the Choking Game, The Blue Whale Challenge, Salt and Ice and more… From the podium, I watched as their expressions changed. Whether discussing apps they were familiar with to new apps or the technology behind “hidden apps” we all felt a roller coaster of emotion.

But even as I spoke, one particular app was being highlighted and creating an international uproar. The app in question? House Party {with a space}. In a release by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE), the request is clear. Distributors are being called to pull it and parents are being called to delete it from teens’ phones. Immediately.

If you are like most parents, you are still thinking “House Party, HouseParty? What on earth are these and how do I know if my kids use them?” With new apps and games being released daily, it’s impossible to keep up. Not to mention that even I got confused between the social media video chatting platform HouseParty and the online sex gaming app House {space} Party. Here’s what you need to know about both and why across the nation, the game House Party is being deleted and pulled.

According to iTunes, Houseparty is described this way:

It’s time to take the group chat to the next level with group video chat. Trying to FaceTime with a group? Houseparty is the group video chat app that you’vebeen missing in your life. We empower people to have more frequent conversations with the people they care about most, meet new friends, and have fun together – wherever they are. Up your group video chat game and Houseparty today.

Parents, take note:

The game is rated 12+ for Infrequent/Mild Sexual Content and Nudity/Suggestive Themes. It makes you think though – developers feel that it’s okay for 12-year-olds (pre-teens) to be around “mild sexual content and nudity/suggestive themes?”

How Houseparty Works:

The average user goes onto Houseparty via live, real-time video streaming. They are paired with six people – friends or complete strangers – and the video chatting begins. With live, real-time video streaming, you never know what will come up and if you notice in the photo from iTunes, one of the users is in a bathtub. It doesn’t take much to imagine where this could go in the hands of immature youth or predators. While the app has strict conduct guidelines, the reality is a 12-year-old girl in Texas could be video-chatting with a group of strangers across the globe. It’s something to think about.

Parents, Take Note:

The DailyMail issued a warning about Houseparty back in April 2017 with the following headline: Mothers’ warning after two schoolgirls use child-friendly Houseparty chat app and see a pervert EXPOSE HIMSELF and URINATE on camera.  (To read more, click here; PLEASE NOTE, this link contains graphic images from the actual app.)

How House {space} Party Works:

And here’s the bigger issue. House {space} Party is an online game made possible through Steam, an online gaming database that serves about 35 million children. The game is so bad, the platform now has people calling it out for being “pornographic” and filled with scenes of “rape” and “sexually coercive scenes” through explicit gaming images. According to NCOSE:

The House Party ‘hook up’ game included disturbing features that allow users to increase their odds of ‘having sex’ with women through manipulation and coercion. Throughout the game, sex is achieved via using nude pictures as blackmail, increasing women’s alcohol consumption, impersonating their friends through text, and jamming cell phone reception to isolate a woman in a room away from other party goers. The sexual encounters are blatant animated pornography, featuring genitalia, ejaculation, and more. (For proof and screenshots click here.)

In response, Steam has temporarily removed House Party until the game developer can apply in-game “mild censors to pixilate genitals and breasts.”

Parents, Take Note:

When asked, House Party developers defended the game, calling it a “parody” and a “joke” and dismissed concerns about the game being harmful and misogynistic.

Thanks but no thanks House Party.

Now What?

It’s up to us, parents:

  • We must be on top of the technology.
  • Regularly examine our children’s phones.
  • Talk, talk, and talk about online safety and boundaries.
  • Remind teens that as you post something, someone else can be taking screen shots and forever saving your posts.
  • Parents did you know? You can go onto your or child’s phone settings and select “battery” (give it a moment to load) to see all the apps your children are on and how much time they spend on them.

It seems overwhelming to stay on top of, but it’s not. We’re in this together and we’ll do whatever we can to keep them safe together

Posted by Rania Mankarious on 30 Jul 2017

About the author

Executive Director of Crime Stoppers of Houston