One huge benefit of the technology at our fingertips is that it can be so supportive of children’s development. Finally, in the 21st century, educators and parents alike are realizing that even among small groups of children there is great diversity among developmental, neurological, attention, and learning realities. Fortunately, education technology developers are tuned into this, and the number of supportive apps is increasing every year.
Here are a handful of social skill building apps that are helpful to all developing kids, but especially beneficial for kids who may need extra practice with social pragmatic language, naming emotions, and identifying when a behavior matches a social situation.
This creative app teaches kids about emotion and communication. The Feel Electric! App features videos, photos, games, and emotions-related vocabulary building activities; with the talented cast of the PBS show The Electric Company showing kids how to express their emotions with words. This app was created in conjunction with the organization Military Families Near and Far that supports kids who have parents in the military. There’s little direct focus on military families; it’s more generally an app to help all kids learn ways to express their emotions in healthy ways.
Older elementary, middle and high school kids can practice navigating the vast and complex world of social norms and expectations that may feel stressful and overwhelming in real-life with this app. Social Quest utilizes a problem-solving quest theme in which students navigate various locations and earn rewards linked to social competencies. The app is designed to help students who struggle with social situations reflect, predict, and practice good social etiquette and problem-solving skills so that they feel better prepared and less stressed as they encounter real-life situations. Developed by a Speech-Language Pathologist, the app is based on story-based intervention; a technique found to be useful for children with autism as documented in the National Autism Center’s Evidence-Based Practice and Autism in the Schools (2011).
You Are A Social Detective
This is a series of short video clips of real kids, highlighting specific social situations for kids to understand, with assessment questions that advance you throughout the app. 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, identifying expected and unexpected behaviors, and predicting what could happen next. Videos provide both positive and negative examples for each common scenario, in various settings.
The Social Express II
The Social Express II is an interactive animated app for boosting kids’ social-awareness skills. Each lesson presents different social situations using video modeling, hidden rules, and suggestions for how to problem-solve in daily life. Though it’s designed for kids, part of what makes the app stand out is the guidance it gives parents. From the Guide for Parents (available on the Social Express website) to the Teaching Tips that appear during a lesson (tips can be turned off for kids using the app independently). Parents should note that kids have the option to participate in the app’s private social network, where they can reveal their real names and hometowns.
Social Skill Builder
With this app, kids will build friendships and life skills, problem-solving, critical thinking skills, emotional awareness, and social resilience. The Social Skill Builder app involves video clips of real kids in real-life social situations, as well as quiz questions, and positive feedback. Social Skill Builder, Inc offers a couple of different options for app purchases depending on your child’s age, but for most parents purchasing the LITE version and then individual modules is easiest.
Jenny Kepler, MA, LMFT is a licensed marriage and family therapist and writer who has been helping families navigate parenthood for over 10 years. Her office is in downtown Portland, OR where she does in person therapy with adults, couples and families. She also offers parent coaching over the phone for people who can’t see her in Portland. http://jennykepler.com/