Solve the Outbreak

App review by
Debbie Gorrell, Common Sense Media
Solve the Outbreak App Poster Image
Detect diseases with terrific blend of mystery and science.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Kids can learn about epidemiology and the method of determining the cause of diseases in a population. The process of using clues to analyze data is an excellent way for kids to use critical thinking skills. The real-world context of each outbreak scenario encourages kids to apply what they know about health science while using glossary links to help them learn new terminology. Kids have the opportunity to re-solve an outbreak if they want to improve their score. Solve the Outbreak helps kids learn what it takes to be a real disease detective with the CDC, including the required education and experience. 

Ease of Play

A help feature clearly explains how to navigate and includes step-by-step instructions with screenshots.  

Violence

Some of the outbreak scenarios are mildly graphic. One scenario involves an act of bioterrorism and the CDC video contains a picture from 9/11. There is a link for a CDC video on the home page, which takes users to YouTube, where they can find violent content.

Sex

Glossary includes the term abortion. Pregnancy is discussed on the CDC website. There is a link for a CDC video on the home page, which takes users to YouTube, where they can find sexual content.

Language

There is a link for a CDC video on the home page, which takes users to YouTube, where they can find iffy language.

Consumerism

There are lots of links to the CDC website and a handful of links that ask users to rate the app; clicking on these links takes users to the App Store. There is a link for a CDC video on the home page, which takes users to YouTube, where they can find commercial content.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Solve the Outbreak is an engaging educational app that puts kids in the role of disease detectives. The program was developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to promote health and science education. Kids can choose from several outbreak scenarios such as "Birthday Party Gone Bad" or "Connect the Spots." Once they choose their scenario, kids get clues and analyze data in order to solve the scenario and help prevent further outbreaks. Kids can earn points and awards as they work through the scenarios, but the real motivation for curious minds is solving the mystery. The app has plenty of additional features such as a video from the CDC, a glossary, a help button for navigating tips, and a section that explains epidemiology in great detail. Although it is presented in a scientific context, parents need to know that the glossary contains the word "abortion," and a YouTube link gives kids access to lots of iffy content. Additionally, the outbreak scenarios contain descriptions that may be difficult for some kids to handle. For example, one scenario describes people bleeding to death or slipping into comas. At the time of this review, a link to the CDC website takes users to a page that has an article about pregnancy.

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What's it about?

Solving mysteries is engaging, and saving lives is rewarding. In SOLVE THE OUTBREAK, kids get to do both. There are 12 realistic outbreak scenarios to choose from, each with its own clever title. Once kids tap on a scenario, a box pops up that provides the following data: number sick, hospitalizations, deaths, and location. Kids tap the start button to continue and are presented with a brief overview of the mission. Once they accept the mission, kids have to analyze the scenario using clues, data, and definitions of key vocabulary terms. They must correctly answer a series of questions in order to determine the source of the disease and the best course of action to prevent further illnesses and deaths. Kids earn points as they work through the scenario and can make their way from "Trainee" to "Disease Detective." They can also earn achievements such as "Smarty Pants" for looking up glossary terms and "Clever Clogs" for correctly answering four answers in an outbreak. Social media is integrated in the app so kids can share their scores and progress.

Is it any good?

The CDC has done an impressive job of creating an engaging, realistic approach to teaching kids about epidemiology. Solving the outbreaks motivates and empowers kids while building strong critical thinking skills. Kids get immediate feedback when answering questions, including an explanation for an incorrect answer. Success depends somewhat on prior knowledge, so kids who are familiar with health science topics will likely experience less frustration when trying to solve the outbreaks.

There are plenty of helpful links for kids who want to learn more or who need some extra help. For example, each term in the glossary is followed by a link to a website where users can learn about the term in further detail or context.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Discuss the basics of disease control and prevention prior to solving the outbreaks. Visit the CDC website together for help.

  • Have kids write their own outbreak scenarios with clues and data and see if you can solve it.

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For kids who love science and health

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