What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Emotion Detective was designed for kids with autism spectrum disorder or any kids having trouble reading emotions or relating to others. The emotion exercises explore a variety of emotions (angry, happy, sad, or surprised, for example), and some scenes depict situations that may invoke these emotions (a picture suggests two people are arguing and are thus angry). In one exercise, kids use the device's camera or browse the photo album to take or find a picture of themselves making a face to match a given emotion. Emotion Detective was made in Australia, so it features great Australian accents. But, at $13.99, the app is definitely on the expensive side.
What kids can learn
- identifying emotions
- labeling feelings
- perspective taking
Engagement, Approach, Support
A variety of activities and approaches to learning emotional awareness keeps kids on their toes. The mystery-solving activities provide tasks kids can easily complete successfully, although they don't tie in with rest of the activities.
Through multiple-choice questions, kids practice identifying emotions based on facial cues, body language, and other contextual information. Kids also use a camera to experiment with creating their own emotionally descriptive facial expressions.
Not much in-app help is provided in this easy-to-use and very accessible app, although most activities include some discussion prompts. Kids can save their progress mid-game, and they get a certificate when they solve all four mysteries.
What's it about?
Kids create a detective portfolio with a picture and a name and then choose from four detective scenarios describing crises in the land of Emotiana. A number of emotional-awareness exercises follow, in which kids depict emotions with real and animated faces, choose the correct emotion in a multiple-choice format, take pictures of faces showing different emotions and use the pictures to draw on areas of the face that change with each emotion, listen to a conversation and identify how a character is feeling, and look at a picture and use body language and context to choose the appropriate phrase or emotion. Interspersed are "Where’s Waldo"-type tasks, in which kids must find a missing item. When kids finish all the emotion exercises and locate all the missing items, they've solved the mystery. Kids can save their progress mid-game and create multiple accounts.
Is it any good?
The emotional awareness activities in EMOTION DETECTIVE provide a good variety of exercises for learning how to identify and express emotions in different ways and are based on different cues (body language, context, conversation and tone of voice, facial expression, and movement of specific facial muscles). The activities provide great practice for kids who have difficulty reading emotions in others or expressing emotions themselves, although they would be improved by more diversity in actors and situations.
The detective-story narrative is underdeveloped and disconnected from everything else. The search activity is a break from the difficult task of identifying emotions and clearly draws from the theory that kids with ASD tend to be good at picking out details while ignoring background or context. The app would be greatly improved, however, if the detective story were more seamlessly bound to the emotion-identifying activities. Still, the emotion activities are worth looking into, if you're OK with the hefty price tag.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the different social situations presented in the exercises. Are any of them familiar? Role-play to explore different outcomes.
Follow discussion prompts and talk about what's going on in each scene in the exercises.
Play emotions games -- use the exercises as prompts in making and mirroring emotional expressions together.