The new Clubhouse app: What parents need to know

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Clubhouse is a relatively new social media app that is increasing in popularity. Unlike many other social media channels, Clubhouse is audio-only and is presently only available on iOS devices. As a new social media app, parents need to know about it.

In the article below, Ghislaine Bombusa outlines what parents need to know about Clubhouse, from the recommended user age and its safety features to the risks to childrne from using the app. Ghislaine knows her stuff as she is Head of Digital at online safety not-for-profit Internet Matters. Do have a read and if you have any further questions about CLubhouse, do leave a comment at the end.

Ghislaine Bombusa, head of Digital at Internet matters, explains what parents need to know about the Clubhouse social media app.

If you have children in your household you may feel lost with all the latest apps they talk about at the dinner table. One of the latest apps to join the social media landscape is Clubhouse, a platform solely based on audio-chat that launched in April 2020.

Clubhouse is an exclusive invite-only app, meaning you have to be invited by somebody in order to join and you can’t just download it off the app store and create an account. Clubhouse currently has 600,000+ users with the likes of celebrities such as Oprah, influencers, CEOs, and everyone in between. It’s also popular for networking and informal discussions for the creative industries.

The app allows users to listen in to conversations, interviews and discussions between interesting people on various topics. it’s a bit like an interactive podcast that mimics real-life interactions.

When you join, you can select topics of interest, like entertainment, wellness or tech, which Clubhouse uses to personalise your app experience. The more information you give the app about your interests, the more conversation rooms and individuals the app will recommend you follow or join.

Clubhouse’s waving hand logo, an image that will be familiar to anyone who uses the app.

The conversation room is just like a conference call, but with some people on the call talking, and most listening in. Rooms can have just a couple of people or a few thousand, and can last a few minutes or several hours.  Just like a phone call, once the conversation is over, the room is closed and the live audio-chats aren’t saved or viewable.

Despite not being built for kids and having a minimum age limit of 18, there are no age verifications on the app, meaning young people of any age can join as long as they are invited. The app has also come under scrutiny over data privacy issues as well as a lack of adequate moderation to monitor hate speech. As Clubhouse grows in popularity, more young people may try to join, which brings up a number of issues that parents need to look out for.

What are the risks of Clubhouse?

Clubhouse has caused some concerns for parents amid lack of age verifications and worries about content.

Firstly, while Clubhouse has a minimum age of 18 and therefore not suitable for children, there are no age verifications on the platform, which means kids can join as long as they get an invite from someone they know.

Secondly, there are reported concerns around how rooms cannot be adequately moderated combined with a lack of safety protocols to monitor abuse such as racist or misogynistic language. This could also spread misinformation and fake news, with some children not being emotionally mature enough to separate fact from debate and freedom of speech from hate speech.

Thirdly, people should be encouraged to report inappropriate content, but Clubhouse explicitly states conversations are not to leave the app and does not permit users recording conversations. It says users will be removed, and an investigation carried out if they are found doing so. However, there is a tool for listeners and speakers to block and report someone for abusive behaviour.

Does clubhouse have any safety features?

Clubhouse recently released a statement condemning hate speech and abuse and updated its community guidelines and terms of service accordingly.

As a moderator, you have more privileges to manage breaches of community guidelines than a speaker or listener. As a moderator in a room, you can:

  • Accept or reject speakers
  • Mute or remove speakers
  • Mute or remove speakers
  • Unfollow
  • Block
  • Shared block lists.

As a speaker or listener, you can only block someone and report incidents.

What can parents do to reduce the risks of their kids using Clubhouse?

Ultimately, even though Clubhouse is not an app made for children, its rise in popularity provides an opportunity for parents to speak to their children about their online world and the content they engage with.

At Internet Matters we recommend that as soon as your child starts to use the internet you should begin to talk about what they might find there. Talk to your children about their online life, like you would their normal life. Discuss the risks and help them understand that sometimes they may come across things that they’d prefer not to see, or that you would prefer they didn’t see. Try to have these conversations regularly so if they view anything inappropriate they will come to you for support.

Many sites have a minimum age limit. This includes websites like YouTube and Facebook. While there are no age verifications on Clubhouse, it is built for adults aged 18+ and parents should explain that these age limits are there to help protect them from unsuitable content.

By exploring other sites and apps together, parents could also suggest alternative apps designed for kids, such as PopJam. By talking to your child about their interests you can hep find them suitable sites to visit and apps to use as an alternative.

If your child does stumble across something inappropriate on Clubhouse, there are a few things that you can do to deal with it. Establish whether they stumbled onto the content accidentally or were simply curious and went looking for it. If it was an accident, reassure them that is not a bad thing and show understanding. Secondly, if they went looking for it, have an honest conversation about why they felt the need to, to understand and help them take a more critical view of their actions.

It’s important to remain calm and give your child the opportunity to discuss what they have seen and how it has made them feel to assess what emotional support they may need. Reassure your child they can talk to you or a trusted adult if they come across anything that upsets them online again.

For more information on Clubhouse and how to keep you child safe online, click here to visit our website.

Don’t forget to check out the online safety section of Dadbloguk for more information about keeping your child safe online.

2 thoughts on “The new Clubhouse app: What parents need to know”

  1. Nice interview. I’m still awaiting an invite so haven’t been on the platform as yet. I know Casey is devoting a lot of time to the platform and there are big advancements being made. You don’t say if you use it? It could dovetail nicely with your own podcaster moniker…

    I was looking into BitClout (more media platforms each week than I have hot dinners, or socks. There is definately an analogy there) and that is causing more clubhouse conversations to pop up.

    Do you see the platform taking off in the same way, say, Tik Tok has? Would the collateral damage of that be the loss of quality podcasts?

    1. Haha! Interesting questions and observations. Yes, I am on the platform as @dadbloguk. Will it take off in the same way as TikTok? Yes…and no. What I’ve learned is that you need to know exactly what time and when your fave show is going to broadcast. Dare I say it, it’s like FM radio was 30 years ago! You can just drop in and see who is on air, but you are unlikely to find anything you like. Clubhouse users are, therefore, going to be discerning and committed. You may get a smaller audience, but one who really, really wants to hear you so it operates and appeals in a completely different way to other channels.

      I don’t see Clubhouse doing huge damage to podcasts, especially if it keeps the invite only format (although I suspect that will be dropped in time). The beauty of podcasts is that you can download them and listen to them anywhere. Clubhouse does not provide recordings so it you miss a session, it’s gone forever.

      Anyway, hope you keep all the tips in mind for your own kids. Online safety is so critical.

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