If you haven’t heard, Clubhouse is one of the new kids on the block when it comes to social media apps. It’s currently blowing up, with two million users as of February 2021. Some features make Clubhouse unique from the multitude of apps out there — but what is so exciting about this app that has so many people hopping on board? And is Clubhouse safe to use for adults or kids?
Let’s take a closer look.
What Is Clubhouse?
Clubhouse is a social networking app that’s based on audio chat. It was launched in March 2020 by Paul Davison and Rohan Seth of Alpha Exploration Co. As of this writing, it is only available in the App Store for iPhone users.
Think of Clubhouse like those phone chat lines from years ago, but where those were often used to meet new people and hang out (or find a date), Clubhouse is often being promoted as a professional destination for hearing audio interviews or listening/participating in industry conversations and discussions.
The big difference between this and other social media apps is that you can’t just download it and join. You have to be invited by a current user. That could change as the creators want to eventually open it up to everyone. For now, it’s invite-only.
When you join you’re asked about your interests. This gives you access to different chat rooms based on the topics available. The different chat rooms work like conference calls with some people talking, but the majority of people just listen in.
- Anyone can start a room and set it to be “open.” This allows other users to pop in.
- If you set your room as a “social” room, only people you follow can join.
- A “closed” room is for invited guests only.
- The app also has clubs that can create recurring rooms and have members.
Who’s Using Clubhouse?
One reason Clubhouse is so popular is the invite-only approach. People like exclusivity, which the registration process enforces.
Another reason may be because it’s attracted some big names. Oprah Winfrey, Mark Cuban, Lindsay Lohan, and Chris Rock have all appeared on the app.
Famous or not, users can start a room in Clubhouse and become the moderator. This makes you a speaker and allows you to add or remove other speakers. You can also guide the conversation which sets the tone and allows you to have a great deal of influence.
If you’re not the moderator, you can become a speaker. You can contribute to the conversation and mute your mic when you have nothing to say. If you don’t want to speak at all, you join as a listener with your mic muted all the time.
Is Clubhouse Safe to Use?
There are no parental controls on the app. That’s because, as of this writing, Clubhouse has a minimum age requirement of 18. However, there is no age-verification system. So anyone under 18 can join as long as they know basic math to fake their age, and someone has invited them to join. The app’s Community Guidelines state that everyone has to use their real name and identity but, again, the platform does not enforce that.
Theoretically, someone could meet an underage person on another platform like Instagram or Snapchat, start a DM conversation, and then invite them over to Clubhouse for voice communication. Why choose Clubhouse? It’s a way to engage verbally without using a public phone number — similar to kids using Google video chat without their parents knowing. And because few parents know about Clubhouse or can’t access it without an invite, it’s easier to keep those communications a secret.
To be clear, this is a theoretical scenario. There have been no reports of child grooming or abuse on the platform. However, Clubhouse has received some backlash for not appropriately moderating all rooms. There have been concerns about cyberbullying, anti-semitism, and harassment. Clubhouse says that any hate speech and bullying is against its community guidelines. Users can report specific people in an incident report if there is an issue.
In fact, on March 12 the platform released “More trust & safety improvements” on the app. They stated in a message to users, “We added a bunch of new tooling under the hood to detect abuse, renamed the ‘Report for trolling’ button (to ‘Report for disrupting conversation,’ since ‘trolling’ is a bit vague), and added the ability to deactivate your account directly from the app.”
How does all of that work?
Reporting an Incident
Honestly? It’s not easy — or it doesn’t work. Here’s what the FAQ page says:
- Report an incident in real time: From inside a room, tap the three horizontal dots at the top right of the screen, and then tap “Report an incident in this room.” Submitting a report from inside the room prompts us to retain the temporary, encrypted audio recording, for the purpose of investigating the incident, as noted above.
- Report a past incident: To report an incident after the room has ended, you can go to your user profile, tap the gear icon at the top right and tap “Report an incident.” Note that when you report an incident from your profile, we will not have access to the room’s audio to support the investigation.
We went through multiple rooms to figure it out, tapping the three dots on the top right of a room, but there was no way to report a room. It just offered us the option of reviewing the club rules or searching members of the room.
Assuming that’s a bug and you can report an incident, Clubhouse allegedly records the audio in a room when it is live. This is so that if a complaint is made, Clubhouse can go back and listen to the audio to investigate. When the investigation is over, the audio is deleted. If no complaints are made, the audio recording is deleted when the room ends.
The company says all temporary audio recordings are encrypted. Users are not allowed to record any conversations. If you don’t want to deal with another user, you can block them at any time. You can also unfollow another user at any time.
The company has not said how many people or what systems it has in place to moderate rooms. Likewise, the company did not respond to Parentology’s repeated requests for an interview.
The Bottom Line
Since Clubhouse is new to the social media app game, it’s likely to undergo some changes. If you’re concerned your child is on it and they shouldn’t be, do some investigating on their phone. If you’ve been invited to join, check out the safety guidelines — and hope they work if you ever need them.