Is the Clubhouse App a Safe Place for Kids to Hangout?

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Is the Clubhouse App a Safe Place for Kids to Hangout?

Most of us have fond summer memories of hanging out with friends in a secret clubhouse. However, this isn’t that. While the word clubhouse stirs up instant feelings of belonging to a group of friends, the digital Clubhouse app, we’re referencing is a meeting hub for users over 18. Currently, still in its beta phase, Clubhouse is by invitation only. This exclusivity is also what makes it somewhat irresistible for tweens and teens looking for a new place to meet with friends.

How it works

Clubhouse is an all-audio social network; kind of like a podcast meets a group phone call. Guests may drop in and even speak if they raise their hand are unmuted by the speaker. Speakers create “rooms” each with different topics and invite people to join in on that discussion.

The app found its wings as a fun place to connect during the pandemic. Mom groups, business roundtables, staff meetings, political groups, think tanks, and hobbyists flocked to connect on the app and still do. The topics are plentiful and there’s always a conversation happening that you can access with a click.

Clubhouse App

Age restrictions

Currently there aren’t any parental controls or privacy settings on Clubhouse. While the app states that there’s a minimum age requirement of 18, there isn’t an actual age-verification system. As with so many other apps, anyone under 18 can simply get an invite, fake their age, and either drop in on any of the conversations going on or start their own room.

Potential Risks

Mature content. Topics on Clubhouse cover a wide range of topics both mainstream and fringe. So, if an underage user fills out their profile information and interests, they will automatically get invitations to several daily discussions, which may or may not be age appropriate. They can also explore and join any kind of group.

Bullying. Clubhouse discussions are uncensored. Therefore, it’s possible that a heated discussion, biased comments, or bullying can take place.

Misinformation. If you walked through a crowded mall, you might overhear a dozen different accounts about a news event, a person, or a topic. The same holds true for Clubhouse where commentary is the currency. Therefore, misinformation is likely (as is common with any other app).

Accounts can’t be locked. Another privacy gap on Clubhouse is that accounts can’t be set to private and rooms/conversations will remain open by default unless the host makes it private, which means anyone can drop in.

The celebrity hook. Clubhouse has attracted celebrities and social media influencers to its halls who host discussions. This is a big draw for kids who want to hear real-life conversations and just get a bit closer to their favorite celebrity. Again, content can be unpredictable in these rooms and potentially risky for underage users.

Talk about the app

Why age restrictions matter. More and more, kids who ignore age restrictions on apps are wandering into trouble. Consider talking to your child about why age restrictions exist, the consequences if they are ignored, and some alternative apps that might be safer.

Why privacy matters. While Clubhouse has grown prolifically in a short time, which has caused some concern over data privacy. According to reports, Clubhouse asks users to share their contacts and has been accused of being “overly aggressive with its connection recommendations.” Also, it’s unclear how the app collects and leverages user data. As outlined by McAfee’s Advanced Threat Research Team last month, the security of user information and communication within Clubhouse has vulnerabilities that could be exploited. For these reasons, consider discussing the data “exchange” we often make when we jump on an exciting new app, why data matters, and why it’s important to understand what’s being collected and to use any and all privacy settings. According to its privacy policy, Clubhouse also “temporarily record the audio in a room when it is live.”

Why content matters. With so many images and ideas coming across our screens every day, holding fast to our content standards can be a challenge for families. Talk to kids about why age-appropriate conversations, topics, and friend groups matter online and what happens when you try to speed up that process. Discuss how content filters and parental controls work and consider them for your family.

The good news about Clubhouse (when it comes to young users) is that along with its rapid growth, the creators are reportedly responding to consumer safety demands and daily increasing in-app safety features for reporting harassment and abuse.

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