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My City : Mansion

App review by
Mieke VanderBorght, Common Sense Media
My City : Mansion App Poster Image
Virtual mansion rich in consumerism concerns, stereotypes.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational Value

Though this app is in the Education category, it doesn't have significant educational value. Unlike other apps by the same developer that offer open-ended play around real-life activities, this app is about wealth and luxury.

Ease of Play

Picking up small objects or activating on small buttons requires precise tapping. Sometimes navigating through the house is confusing and it takes some exploration to find all the rooms.

Violence & Scariness
Sexy Stuff
Language
Consumerism

There's an icon on the home screen that takes users to ads for apps from the same developer. The many apps from the same developer can be linked together; this framework means that kids can navigate to areas in this app that lead them to an invitation to buy additional titles. In all cases, a simple math equation acts as a parent gate to protect access to purchase. The mansion itself promotes appreciation of wealth and luxury.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that My City : Mansion is a virtual dollhouse that lets kids move and manipulate objects and characters in various locations. It may be difficult for young kids to pick up some of the smaller objects or hit small buttons, even if kids play on a larger screen like a tablet rather than a phone. The app is part of a large collection of virtual dollhouse-type apps that can all be linked together. If kids navigate around the neighborhood around the mansion, they'll run into storefronts and other areas that take them to ads to buy additional apps in the series so they can link to those locations. Daily gifts and push notifications encourage kids to play consistently and regularly. The app supports multi-touch play, so kids can play along with a friend. Some of the default placements of the characters enforce gender or racial stereotypes. For example, when kids enter the garage they find three male characters and no female characters. Or ,when they enter what appears to be an underground maid's room, they find an African-American woman wearing cleaning gloves. Also, the app is all about experiences of wealth and luxury, so there are clear messages of consumerism which make it more appropriate for older kids. Read the developer's privacy policy for details on how your (or your kids') information is collected, used, and shared and any choices you may have in the matter, and note that privacy policies and terms of service frequently change.

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What's it about?

When kids open MY CITY : MANSION, kids find themselves at the front door of a house. Tap the doors to enter, or swipe right or left to explore the neighborhood. In the house, there are objects to move; environments to explore; special actions, like putting fruit in a blender to make a drink, to discover, and characters to play with. Nine locations include the main room, kitchen, bedroom, garage, and pool. Some characters are placed in different locations by default and kids can also choose to add or remove characters as they please. Tap on the characters to change their facial expressions or remove their clothing (unclothed characters still have underwear). If kids have other apps from the My City or My Town series, they can be linked together and kids can travel between them through the subway or other storefront options.

Is it any good?

In terms of open-ended apps that encourage pretend play, this one offers lots of interaction and discovery, but its messages of consumerism and some stereotypical representations bring it down. Kids with active imaginations who like to lose themselves in pretend worlds or use dolls and props to invent stories will find plenty of material here. It can be great fun to explore everything, and find hidden objects, interactive elements, and locations. And, the option to give characters different emotions is really neat and can be the basis for interesting discussion with your kids. That said, there are some concerns with My City : Mansion that might give some parents pause. One concern is the emphasis on wealth and luxury. A rug with $1000000 on it; a highly luxurious home with a rooftop pool, helipad and golf course; the dollar sign decorations outside the home; and the tagline "live a life of the rich and famous" are all blatant celebrations of being rich. In addition, the developer's My City and My Town series encourage purchase of multiple apps and continuous, perhaps even excessive play. Another concern is the clear lack of diversity in the available characters and some stereotyping of gender and racial roles in society. Finally, it's an open question what a screen adds to the age-old kids' practice of engaging in pretend play. Some families might feel more comfortable offering a few dolls or action figures and some basic household items and letting their kids take it from there.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the scenes and characters kids interact with in My City : Mansion. What kinds of stories can they tell about what their favorite characters are doing? Help your kids write their stories down to read back to them later.

  • Do your kids feel that they, their family, or other people they know are represented in this app? Why or why not?

  • Talk about feelings. Changing the character's facial expressions in the app may be a great way to discuss feelings and emotions with kids. Do their characters have emotions that mimic how they might be feeling in real life?

  • It can be easy to lose track of time with an open-ended app like My City : Mansion. Make your family's guidelines regarding screen time clear to your kids before they start playing. And if they want to keep pretending but they've run out of screen time, give them some dolls or stuffed animals and some household objects to continue the fun.

App details

For kids who love preschool apps and storytelling

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