We recently researched Facebook’s new app “Rooms” to determine if it is something you should be concerned about your child or teen using. After investigating the app, it’s likely the app won’t fall on their list of “must-haves” particularly because it’s difficult to use, not easy to navigate, and nothing is searchable.
Aside from these feature shortfalls, the short answer to the question of whether or not this app is appropriate for your child is: no. Rooms has a 12+ rating so even if you have parental controls properly configured for your child’s device, your 12-year-old can still download the app (unless you have Ask to Buy enabled). Moreover, the app never asks you to enter your age, it only needs an email address. And while a number of the “rooms” in the app encourage an environment of respect, it is still a platform that allows your children to interact with total strangers without oversight, content filtering, or monitoring. So if you don’t let your child use platforms that encourage users to interact with people they don’t know offline (i.e. MeetMe, Tumblr, etc.), you won’t want them using Rooms, either.
Rooms simply has too many issues to be desirable. It’s incredibly confusing. It looks pretty enough, but finding your way around the app is entirely counter-intuitive. It requires that you take screenshots of QR codes while you are in the app. (I’m not sure I’ve ever seen my kids take screenshots of QR codes.) It’d be a much better idea to include links. And there’s no way to search for rooms! You can browse through recommended rooms, but you can’t search. You may know of a room that you’d be interested in joining, but if you don’t have the QR code for it, you’re out of luck.
The idea of having forums, groups, or communities on everything you could be interested in, all in one place, is intriguing, but Facebook missed the mark with this execution. The rooms don’t even look, or function, like forums, groups or communities.
The only thing I can imagine Rooms being useful for is the ability for older teens and adults to join an interest group by scanning a QR code. But if that’s all that this app can offer, Facebook should just allow people to associate Facebook groups with QR codes instead of building an entire app around this concept. This app seems more about a business opportunity to sell more advertising and in app purchases, than it does improving the existing service adults already enjoy.
Interacting with online communities on shared interests can be a very positive experience. In fact, it’s a big part of what goes on at Yoursphere. However, at Yoursphere, if your child wants to talk about their science project, or their favorite movie or pet, they’re not surrounded by inappropriate content that has a rating older than they are, nor are they required to be 13 or older to be a part of the community. Beyond Rooms’ many flaws, this is the key reason we cannot recommend the app. If you’re looking for an app that allows your child to talk about their age-appropriate interests with others their own age, the Yoursphere app is now available on iOS and Android.