Emotion Detective

Common Sense Media says

Kids practice ID'ing emotions; some activities disconnected.






What parents need to know

Ease of play

Games are easy to play and navigate.

Violence & scariness
Not applicable
Sexy stuff
Not applicable
Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable
Privacy & safety

No apparent privacy concerns, but a privacy policy isn't available to explain what information is collected via the app. In one activity, kids use the device’s camera to take pictures of themselves; these are stored in the device’s photo album and can't be shared directly through the app.

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


Emotional Development

  • identifying emotions
  • labeling feelings
  • perspective taking
  • self-awareness

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.

Learning Approach

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 kids can learn


Emotional Development

  • identifying emotions
  • labeling feelings
  • perspective taking
  • self-awareness

Kids can learn about identifying emotional expressions in others, making emotional expressions themselves, and using other cues (body language, context, language) to identify someone's emotional state. A couple of exercises also touch on conversation skills, such as starting a conversation, judging your conversation partner’s interest in what you’re talking about, and learning what phrases certain body language and contextual clues suggest. Emotion Detective can be useful for kids who have trouble identifying or expressing emotions, but the app's detective narrative is disconnected from the emotion activities.

This Learning Rating review was written by Mieke VanderBorght

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.

App details

Pricing structure:Paid
Release date:October 19, 2012
Size:45.00 MB
Publisher:Brooke Purslowe and InGenius Labs
Minimum software requirements:iOS 4.3 or later

This review of Emotion Detective was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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