Life on the lounge: Ready to Houseparty?
We like to think that our grandchildren are safe, whether it is in the schoolyard, the park or online, and in these troubling times it is more often than not that we chat to them online.
Whether it is Facetime, Skype or Messenger, each poses a risk really.
So what is Houseparty?
When my son said recently, “Mum, you have to download the Houseparty app. You can talk all you want to Poppy, play games, trivia and even play charades with her,” I was skeptical and dragged my feet.
I thought my phone had enough apps on it to confuse the first lady of computing, Miss Ada Lovelace, and to have her spinning cosily in her resting place forever more.
I also thought that my grandchild had my undivided attention at every opportunity including pre-virus visits, and lately, during facetime chats and yoga demonstrations by the dozens.
Finding the app
First off there are always lots of copy cats and scallywags, so I had to make sure I had the right logo.
“It’s the brown circle with the green waving hand,” said my colourblind son.
“Gran it’s a bright red circle with the yellow hand,” says Poppy.
It’s one of the most downloaded apps in the world it says, a platform that blends video chat with online games.
Trying not to think about the connection with free-falling off a diving platform, I pressed the app sign. How hard can it be?
I then chose my son to invite to the party. All my other hopeful friends missed out for the first attempt, but they looked to be waiting patiently for me to ‘tap’ them and invite them for a chat, or ‘party’ too.
Not enough friends to party?
Don’t you believe it. Everyone on your contact list is a potential party goer, you just have to invite them.
I was assured by gurus at the aptly named netsanity.net that if you use the locked door features, no bad people can come and talk to your loved ones and no unseemly or gross videos should float into your ‘room’ unasked.
That’s if you remember to shut the door, and everyone else in the House Party does the same on their private settings. But never fear, the gurus add, as an extra privacy feature, House Party gives a “stranger danger” warning of an uninvited user.
So the Party House, errr, excuse me, Houseparty app duly downloaded, I press the button and a message gurgles onto Miss Poppy’s iPad. Her face swims into view, along with my son, many of Poppy’s friends and their hovering mums and dads.
Loud giggling and shrieking ensue. It’s hard enough for TV guests to get the guts of the ‘one person speaks at a time’ rule – nigh on impossible for six excited eight-year-olds.
I did manage a word of hello and tried a few of the Harry Potter trivia questions. I failed miserably.
As they posed like the Brady Bunch on my screen, all talking at once, wriggling and waving to each other, I could feel my eyes spinning like one of those huge, swirling lolly pops.
Over the weekend I accidentally pressed the yellow hand app, and it was like a game of Crash Bandicoot, heads popping up in all directions.
I shut the door on the app, and went to have a lie down.