ConversationBuilderTeen

App review by
ADK AccessAbility, Common Sense Media
ConversationBuilderTeen App Poster Image
Engaging way to practice peer conversations, tricky topics.

A lot or a little?

Parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational value

Kids can learn how to have teen-oriented conversations with peers in many social settings. They learn to initiate conversations, respond in conversations, and participate in group discussions. In guided turn-taking, they learn to introduce themselves, ask questions, and sustain conversations and when or when not to change the subject. For teens on the autism spectrum, the implied safety and guaranteed success of interacting with a device first and later practicing the same skills with peers may be just the steps they need to participate more easily in daily social arenas. Teens who struggle with peer interactions can get helpful practice with ConversationBuilderTeen.

Ease of play

ConversationBuilderTeen has a video tutorial built in that models all aspects of the app from setting up for initial use to creating and managing group conversations, as well as text instructions. It takes very little time for an adult to learn the controls, and teens need only choose buttons related to the initiation of or response to a conversation and then record that response. The controls are easy to set, and the microphone setup works seamlessly. Teens' conversations are saved in their entirety and organized by module, so users can see how many conversations have been completed and replay them as well. ConversationBuilderTeen keeps track of how many conversations were finished in each topic area, so it's easy to select areas that need more practice or to quickly change to other topics.

Violence

Some conversations refer to rumors about a girl slapping a boy and a girl slapping a teacher as well as bullying. They're designed to teach a kid how to handle topics like these in a social setting, but topics can be filtered out through parental controls.

Sex

Some of the conversations include the topics of sex, pregnancy, and abortion. This is designed to model ways for kids to handle conversations about these topics, but topics can be filtered out through parental controls.

Language

Some conversations include typical teen expressions such as "skank," "dude, you suck," "that sucks," and “holy crap." These are part of typical teen conversation and fit within the context of the app.

Consumerism

Brand names are occasionally mentioned (Kohl's, for example, in a module about clothing).

Drinking, drugs & smoking

Some of the conversations include offers of smoking cigarettes or marijuana or drinking. This is designed to lead kids through resisting these offers, but these topics can be filtered out through parental controls.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that ConversationBuilderTeen is designed to help teens navigate conversations with their peers in many typical social situations. The app includes sensitive topics such as sex, drugs, and bullying; parental controls give you the option of removing these conversations. Teens who are on the autism spectrum often have trouble having conversations with peers and others; using this tool for practice helps them rehearse, learn from mistakes, and ultimately have successful multistep conversations within the format of more than 100 included scripts and more that parents or therapists can customize. Kids who can access a device with a touchscreen can be mostly independent while participating in the conversations. Kids who are blind or who have motor disabilities can still access this app with help in selecting the correct answer and recording. Kids who are nonverbal can select the correct choice; someone else or a communication device can provide a voice for them.

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What's it about?

Teens practice conversations with virtual peers in typical social situations. Given a photo of a social setting, they pick one of three sentences that would be most appropriate socially, record it, listen to a response, and continue through the conversation in the same way with up to eight exchanges. When teens select the right answer, a green record button pops up under the photo, and the correct sentence is left alone above the photo. Teens record the sentence, then have the option of listening to their voice or going to the next set of sentences. Conversation topics include bullying, summer, entertainment, sports, sarcasm, relationships, and school.

Is it any good?

The modules in CONVERSATIONBUILDERTEEN are appealing and easy to use. The scenarios are typical conversations that occur in teen life, and the inclusion of topics such as sarcasm give kids guidance in what can be very tricky social situations. Kids interact with the device and with each other when it's used in a group, so there's more social learning going on than conversation alone. In addition to the built-in modules, you can set up customized conversations for teens. You'll make a list of the kids who will be practicing and note who will start the conversation. Then choose to use the app's stock photos or to import your own. Teens record their conversations -- there is no text. They can replay the conversation at any time. Parents or therapists will want to replay the conversation and help teens analyze whether it was successful and why.

There are a few downsides to the app. With some of the trickier topics, such as sarcasm and bullying, it's not always clear why the correct response is the best response, and teens may need an adult to help further explain. There are a few grammatical errors, and there could be more diversity in the included photos. Still, the app can be a good way for teens to practice conversations with peers.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about some of the trickier topics, such as bullying and relationships. You may find that working through the modules with your teen is helpful because you'll be able to help clarify responses and offer additional context.

  • Practice conversations one-on-one with teens and then construct a similar conversation without the device to help generalize the skill.

App details

  • Device: iPad
  • Subjects: Language & Reading: speaking
  • Skills: Communication: asking questions, conveying messages effectively, friendship building, listening, speaking
  • Price: $19.99
  • Pricing structure: Paid
  • Release date: May 13, 2013
  • Category: Education
  • Size: 411.00 MB
  • Publisher: Mobile Education Store LLC
  • Version: 1.5
  • Minimum software requirements: iOS 5.1 or later

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