A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this app.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Clubhouse: Drop-in audio chat is a voice-only chat-based app. At the time of review, new users need to receive an invite from a current user or join a waitlist. There are quite a few celebrities using the app, which will likely draw younger users, and there are sometimes big names like Elon Musk who attract lots of listeners. Users can drop in and out of "rooms" that are usually focused on a particular topic without drawing attention to themselves. There are moderators who can mute and remove people from a group. However, because the app is intended for adults, the conversations are often very mature, including sexually explicit language, all manner of swearing, and discussion of substance use. Profile pictures also sometimes feature scantily clad people. The adult-focused content can also be also tame, like the rooms about networking or growing a business. Users can start rooms and lock them so random users can't drop in.
What's it about?
CLUBHOUSE: DROP-IN AUDIO CHAT features spontaneous and scheduled voice-only conversations that center around specific topics. At the time of review, you need an invite or to joint the waitlist. Once you're admitted, you only need a phone number to sign up. In theory, everyone is using their real names, though there's no verification. To get started, you choose from a huge variety of topics you're interested in divided into categories like Knowledge, Wellness, and Hanging Out. Within those categories, you'll see topics like Veganism, Islam, Psychology, and Bring a Drink. If you allow access to your contacts, you'll get a list of friends to follow. Otherwise, you need to add people manually. And if you want to give your invitations to friends so they can join, you need to allow access to contacts.
There's a new user guide that explains the basic functionality and etiquette. You'll see rooms you can join, which have moderators, speakers, and listeners. Moderators can mute and remove people from the room. When you enter a room, you're automatically muted. If you want to speak, you can virtually raise your hand, or the moderator can invite you to be a speaker. You can also start your own group which can be open to anyone or locked. You'll see rooms you can join immediately that are already active, or your can tap Explore and look at the people and clubs you might want to follow. Clubs also schedule conversations for certain times, and you can get notifications so you know when you want to tune in. It's easy to drop in and out of rooms unnoticed.
Is it any good?
This unique social experience does a great job of giving all people a voice, but there's still room to grow -- and it's definitely not for kids. Clubhouse: Drop-in audio chat is a truly fresh take on social media. Without a feed to scroll or images to share, it's based purely on conversation. And a lot of that conversation is about big ideas, coming together, and supporting each other. For teens of color, in the LGBTQ+ community, or teens who can't find their people where they live, an app like this could be an amazing find. With groups like "Therapy for Black Girls," "Powerful Black Women," "BIPOC Queer Folx," and "Amigos - Latinos/Latinas Unit, Network, Fun," there are opportunities for community that are harder to find on other social media platforms. The lack of image-sharing puts the focus on conversation, and hearing someone's voice is refreshing as anonymous internet comments are frequently cruel and cold.
On the flip side, it's important for parents to know that this isn't an app for young teens. There's a ton of sexy stuff, swearing, and discussion of substance use alongside the knowledge and community-building, and it's all just a click away. And, like every other social media platform, the stance of "we're different and lack toxicity" evaporated pretty quickly, as hate speech has sometimes infiltrated this app like all the others. In terms of functionality, it has room to improve. Even with muting and etiquette, some rooms have people talking over each other so that it's too hard to listen. Self-promotion is definitely a focus for some. And sexy profile pictures of people in their underwear just seem out of sync with the app itself. Of course, it would also be easy for hate-focused groups to create rooms that teens could drop into, so open conversations come with risks. But for older teens who have proven they can be safe and responsible online, there may be informative, supportive groups and people on Clubhouse that are harder to find elsewhere, and connecting through voice removes some common social media pressures.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how to use Clubhouse: Drop-in audio chat safely. Since the app is based on discussions with strangers, what can you do with unwanted requests or attention? What functionality in the app can give you control over your experience?
Discuss the access to mature topics. Is it okay to join those rooms or clubs? If a conversation strays into uncomfortable territory, it's easy to leave!
Talk about all of the available topics and clubs to explore. Is there representation in this app that you haven't found in other apps? What's it like to just talk to a group of people without seeing them?