Clubhouse is one of the newest social media apps gaining widespread attention. Thanks to support from some of Silicon Valley’s biggest names, this new audio-only platform has taken off in a major way. The app is reminiscent of live radio talk shows, and users are able to listen to, participate in and even host conversations on any topic of their choice. Now that Clubhouse has broken into the mainstream, parents are starting to wonder: is it safe for kids? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons below.
What is Clubhouse?
Currently available for iOS, Clubhouse is a voice-based social networking platform that’s free to download and use. Anyone who wants to join Clubhouse needs to be invited by an existing user—and each user has a limited number of invites that they can share. Because it’s invitation-only, the app had an allure of exclusivity early on. A lot of the platform’s early adopters were venture capitalists and tech industry professionals, but today, you’ll find a more diverse community—alongside the likes of Elon Musk and Bill Gates.
Users can join “rooms,” which are basically panel discussions on a given topic. Think of them like large conference calls with designated moderators. While some rooms are strictly for listening, others encourage listeners to put up a hand and contribute to the conversation. According to the Washington Post, Clubhouse “can feel like a mixture of TEDx talks and conversational podcasts, with the disorder of a heated community meeting and the cringe factor of a call-in radio show thrown in. The format can lead to more spontaneous and revealing conversations than you’d find elsewhere but also rambling and cross talk.”
Clubhouse is a little different from other social media apps because users don’t create extensive profiles or post any content. All you have is a profile picture, bio and available option to link to your Twitter or Instagram accounts.
Should kids use Clubhouse?
According to Clubhouse’s Terms of Service, users must be 18 years of age or have permission from their parents to use the app. While there is no DM feature in the app at the moment, users can DM each other through Twitter or Instagram if those accounts are connected to their Clubhouse profiles. But, even without a dedicated DM feature, the entire point of the Clubhouse app is to listen to or participate in conversations with strangers, so kids should be old enough to understand how to navigate those situations before signing up.
The content on Clubhouse is user-moderated, meaning that those hosting rooms are responsible for selecting speakers, muting or ejecting them if they see fit. Since the app is designed for adults, many of the rooms feature mature topics, explicit language and even hate speech. One Clubhouse conversation made headlines for perpetuating anti-Semitism, while another reportedly devolved into a misogynistic attack on Taylor Lorenz, a New York Times tech reporter.
With all this in mind, parents should ensure that kids are mature enough to handle explicit and sometimes-hateful content—and prepared to safely navigate interactions with strangers before joining Clubhouse.
How to make Clubhouse safer for kids
Clubhouse is not designed for children, so there is very little in the way of safety features or parental controls. Up until recently, there wasn’t even a way for users to report inappropriate conversations, harassment or bullying. Profiles are public, and anyone can follow anyone—though you can block a user. When you block someone, they won’t be able to see or join a room you create, moderate or speak in. And, likewise, you won’t see any rooms they’re hosting, moderating or speaking in.
Common Sense Media suggests that parents have open conversations with their kids about what to do if a stranger gives you unwanted attention. They also advise that parents set expectations around what rooms kids can enter and talk about what to do if they encounter anything upsetting.
Another thing to keep in mind is that Clubhouse is recording all the conversations on its platform. Ensure that kids understand that, even though the rooms feel spontaneous and in-the-moment, anything they say is being captured and theoretically could come back to bite.
Is ClubHouse right for your family?
While Clubhouse has garnered some mixed reviews related to lax content moderation, others have embraced the app for providing spaces to folks who are traditionally under-represented by the tech industry. While mature content might be unavoidable on the app, there are certainly diverse rooms that offer users a chance to connect with like-minded people. If you decide that Clubhouse is right for your family, make sure that everyone is prepared to navigate all the good, the bad and ugly things the open internet has to offer.
Editorial credit: Viktollio / Shutterstock.com