Social Detective

App review by
Ashley Kemper, Common Sense Media
Social Detective App Poster Image
Pragmatic social skills practice tool with real-life videos.

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Kids say

age 6+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Kids can learn appropriate social behavior and the impact their actions have on others around them. They learn to use tools such as listening with their whole body and using their eyes to think about others in the group. As they watch videos of kids in situations they themselves may be in -- taking turns, waiting in line, or eating lunch in a crowded cafeteria -- kids practice identifying expected and unexpected behavior. Although it looks a bit outdated, Social Detective has a solid foundation and features content that's relevant to kids who need practice with social skills.

Ease of Play

Easy to advance among each of the three parts. The audio and visual cues help make it accessible to all users.

Violence & Scariness
Sexy Stuff

Opening screen prompts users to see other paid apps available from the developer. When returning to the home screen between tests, kids may be prompted to rate the app in the App Store.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Social Detective is a series of video assessments that highlight specific social situations for kids to understand. The app directly practices the tools introduced in Michelle Garcia Winner's book You Are a Social Detective. Kids are reminded to use their social tools to practice perspective taking, identify expected and unexpected behaviors in various locations, and make smart guesses about what might happen next. Videos are typically less than 30 seconds long and provide both positive and negative examples for each scenario, including walking in line, taking turns, eating in a crowded cafeteria, and entering and leaving a classroom. It's especially beneficial for kids who may need extra practice with social pragmatic language, labeling emotions, and identifying when a behavior matches a social situation. Though the app doesn't ask for any personal information, there is no privacy policy readily available.

User Reviews

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Teen, 15 years old Written byCommon sense LST December 9, 2017

Great social skills app, but if you get something wrong, it might scare you.

This social skills app is outdated, but it might help others with struggles with social skills. I used a cd version, but both work as well. There are a variety... Continue reading

What's it about?

SOCIAL DETECTIVE opens with a song reminding kids of the tools they can use to have social smarts. New users select an avatar, enter their names, and listen to an explanation of each level. During the pretest, motionless comics demonstrate the intended behavior and kids are asked to answer questions based on the level. On Level 1 kids determine whether the behavior shown is expected or unexpected. On Level 2, they decide whether one character's action makes the other character feel good or uncomfortable. Finally, on Level 3, users are asked to anticipate what might happen next. Once the four-question pretest is finished, kids practice these skills using video recordings of actual kids in different social situations. Correct choices are met with a green highlighted answer and a positive tone, while incorrect choices are explained verbally and kids can try again. Each section of the app has a narrator that speaks clearly and directly, eliminating any reading that may need to happen. Data is collected on the home screen for the five most recent attempts at each level for each user. 

Is it any good?

Though the look and feel are a bit outdated, this set of practice exercises is an incredible video resource for kids who may benefit from practicing social pragmatic language. Younger users may need consistent parent support while learning these behaviors, transferring these skills to real life by utilizing consistent vocabulary (expected vs. unexpected behavior) and using social tools to assess situations (for example, looking with your whole body). The vast variety of scenarios offered as kids progress from video to video is astounding, and kids can practice picking out which expected behavior to look for when they're in that situation next time. Research is available on the Social Thinking website along with links to curriculum to enhance pragmatic language development, so the approach and content are sound. Some kids (and parents) might find the overall look and functionality to be a little old school and it's pretty pricey, but if you look past the imperfections, the inclusion of videos starring real kids (even if a bit cheesy at times) is much more powerful than tips and instruction without context.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about other tools that can help with social interactions. Is this type of tool helpful? Why, or why not?

  • Discuss what to expect when entering social situations that may be challenging for kids. When grocery shopping during a busy time of day, help kids use their social detective tools when waiting in line to decide which behaviors would make others around them have positive thoughts or what should happen next.

  • Reinforce the app's language and content as kids make choices during the day. Are they using an expected or unexpected behavior?

App details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love empathy and collaboration

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