More Teens Are Hanging Out Virtually with Group Video Chats

Teenagers of Generation Z who are spending less time hanging out with their friends in physical environments are going virtual, increasingly turning to group video chats as a substitute. Apps such as Houseparty, Fam, Tribe, Airtime and ooVoo, as well as more traditional messaging apps with a video chat feature like Facebook Messenger and Kik, are making “virtual chilling” possible as busier schedules and helicopter parenting interfere with more traditional forms of socializing.

Houseparty’s version of group video chatting is designed to be casual and spontaneous, much like real life interactions. When a user starts video chatting with one friend, everyone else in the individual’s network gets a notification, so they can hop online and join the party. Houseparty lets up to seven friends video chat in a room at once. Within seven months of launch, Houseparty reached 1 million daily active users.

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According to Pew Research, one in three teens told Pew that they hang out with friends outside of school less often than “every few days.” Comparatively, 55 percent of teens are text messaging their friends every day and another 14 percent are using messaging apps every day. Almost 60 percent of teenagers talk to their friends via video chat.

The popularity of video chatting may represent a shift to a more casual way that teens want to hang out online. Instead of presenting a filtered and curated version of themselves on Instagram or Facebook, group video chats allow these young adults to be themselves.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Snapchat originally helped boost video communication and created a platform where images are automatically erased, so users feel more comfortable presenting an accurate, unstaged version of their life.