Common Sense Media says

Nat Geo virtual world teaches kids about nature.

Age(i)

2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17

Quality(i)

 

Learning(i)

What parents need to know

Positive messages

This site teaches kids about the natural world in a play-oriented way, and it introduces them to virtual worlds through a safe, structured environment.

Violence

The storyline for this site includes a "dark force" that is stealing animals and ruining the enviornment, which may be scary for some younger players.

Sex
Not applicable
Language
Not applicable
Consumerism

Advertising here for paid memberships as well as subscriptions to the print publication National Geographic Kids. Nothing over the top or too intrustive compared with other virtual world sites pushing their paid memberships.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable
Privacy & safety

Choosing an unsafe virtual world name here is impossible because they prescript fun names for kids and let them choose from only those name combinations. Age and birthdate are required, and there are a lot of safety tips on the registration page. This site was clearly created with lots of safety and privacy features in mind.

Parents can create their own login to monitor their child's playtime, buddies, chat features, membership, and more.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Animal Jam is a virtual-world counterpart to National Geographic Kids magazine. Kids learn about plant and animal life while navigating through Jamaa, a land where the animals are disappearing and the environment needs help. There are many safe chat, privacy, and parental control features. Some of the arcade games may seem too simplistic and a waste of time considering the National Geographic brand, but the features that include information on the natural world balance out the fluff. Paid memberships are promoted, but not overwhelmingly so.

What kids can learn

Subjects

Science

  • animals
  • plants

Skills

Thinking & Reasoning

  • collecting data

Communication

  • conveying messages effectively
  • friendship building

Responsibility & Ethics

  • fiscal responsibility

Engagement, Approach, Support

Engagement

They will have fun chatting with other players' avatars, playing games, and shopping for their avatar.

Learning Approach

The social aspect of Animal Jam is its strength. Learning is limited, so kids may connect more with other players than to the planet.

Support

More support, extension activities, and built-in accessibility features would make this a better learning experience for kids.

What kids can learn

Subjects

Science

  • animals
  • plants

Skills

Thinking & Reasoning

  • collecting data

Communication

  • conveying messages effectively
  • friendship building

Responsibility & Ethics

  • fiscal responsibility

Kids can learn about plants and animals while they explore virtual ecosystems and make friends. As animal avatars, kids have free reign to visit the land of Jamaa's mountains, caves, and waterways. They can chat with other players' avatars, play games, and shop for their avatar. The social aspect of Animal Jam is its strength. Learning is limited, so kids may connect more with other players than to the planet.

This Learning Rating review was written by Michelle Kitt

Parents say

What's it about?

Kids create animal avatars with cute anonymous names made from mashups of suggested words (e.g., "Handsome Wackycat"). They then pick a place to visit, play games, meet other players, or shop. Most games don't require or reinforce knowledge of the natural world. Social activities include chatting, game challenges, visits to buddies' dens, or sending friendly Jam-a-Grams. Winning games earns gems, which can buy accessories, furniture, or a pet. New "animal jammers" be warned; Jamaa is a busy place, and new players may need to ask others for help.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Since this site is a National Geographic product, it's expected to have strong nature photos, videos, and graphics; solid information; and generally be a high-quality production -- and it is. That said, if your child or younger tween isn't a strong reader or doesn't have experience with more simple virtual worlds like Club Penguin or Webkinz, Animal Jam could be a bit confusing at first. And some of the games are more arcade-style, less educational. As in most virtual worlds, players earn points that get them online money ("gems") to buy items for their avatar and avatar's home, or to play certain more complex games. Overall, a safe, higher-value-than-usual virtual world for tweens.

Online interaction: This site has a safe and very structured chat and buddy system. The rules are clear, and it's easy to ignore, block or report players who are not following the rules. As virtual worlds go, some of the online interaction is very basic and not very worthwhile, but there is enough educational content here that hopefully kids can find meaningful topics about which to interact here.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how to play nice and be¬†safe¬†in virtual worlds. Review the guidelines on Animal Jam together, and read Common Sense Media's Online Worlds¬†for Young Kids Tips¬†for more ideas.

  • Discuss Animal Jam's Play Timer feature with your kids to help them begin setting self-limits on their computer time. Check their overall time spent on the site's parental controls account. Read Common Sense Media's advice on Setting Computer Time Limits for your children.

  • Ask your kids what they're learning about animals and the environment from their time on Animal Jam. They might teach you a new animal fact or conservation¬†idea!

Website details

Genre:Virtual Worlds
Pricing structure:Free

This review of Animal Jam 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.

Find out more

Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

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.

Find out more

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What parents and kids say

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Parent of a 7 and 9 year old Written byStacyWacy May 2, 2011
AGE
7
QUALITY
 

Responsive developers, game is even better than before

I wrote a review a while back - it is below this.
In it I stated some problems with the site, how kids were preying upon each other. I wrote to the developers and complained, and they responded wonderfully. Steps were taken to prohibit the scamming that players were able to perform on each other, several of my suggestions were incorporated fully into the game. I was very impressed with their response to the feedback I gave. My old review follows but it isn't applicable anymore, as trades are only made now when a pop-up appears in a totally different area of the screen, and the child has to move the mouse over and click there to complete the transaction, eliminating the possibility of trading without realizing you're doing it that I described below. Also, the kids get to vote on which items should be brought back to be sold again.
The aspect of the game that I had found disturbing was eliminated and the game is safer and doesn't feel predatory anymore. My kids love this game, and I approve.

---------------
I strongly approved of this site when my children started playing it last year, but things have changed. (My kids are 7 and 9, and yes they are a little young for the site, but I haven't had any issues with it until now). The things I find negative don't really fall into the given categories, so I guess I have to write it down.
All those good things about it are still true, it is educational, there is no selling of site products to them.
However, the player interaction part has changed. It used to be the kids would play and interact and pretend with each other. You be the mommy and I'll be your baby bunny sort of thing.
Now the entire focus of the game has become acquiring rare items. This often involves tricking other more trusting players out of their items.
Mostly trading occurs on trading forums, but players have started to approach each other, encouraging them to use mail to send or gift each other the items. This happened to my child and she has watched it happen to others. One player suggests mailing instead of trading, and another player stands nearby assuring you child it works great to mail instead of trade and it's fun and safe. So my child mails her rare item to the other child, in expectation that she will get the same item in a different color back. Instead the other player disappears with her item.
But wait, there's more. These rare items are highly desired by all players. If your child has one, they will be hounded to trade or give it away until they hide it.
There are also lots of players saying 'Tap on this space repeatedly to get a rare item!' Oh and if you have a rare item put it on your trading list, tap here quickly and you'll get another one of the same rare item. The kids are completely desperate to get this items, and they believe this and don't see the risk. Then the player telling them to quickly click the space moves their character over the spot, and a trade is initiated, approved, and completed before your child realizes what is going on. Suddenly the pop-ups flash across the screen and it's over. There is no record of who they even traded with, they've now got a common undesirable item in exchange for their rare one.
If your child is not already a little hardened to the tough world where people lie, cheat, and steal, Animal Jam will introduce them to it. I suppose losing a virtual item is better than being scammed out of a real item. Nonetheless it is sad that a fun game has turned into a land where gangs of thug kids prey upon the innocence and desperation of others.

What other families should know
Educational value
Parent Written byfaeriemoonmama July 13, 2011
AGE
10
QUALITY
 

Hacked in account--NO customer service, UNmoderated chat

TERRIBLE automated customer service. UNMODERATED chat. My daughter's account was hacked into by another player who lied to my daughter (she thought he was a moderator) and all her things were "stolen." Animal Jam had the nerve to send an automated response to my email complaints. I left two messages on their phone line (which is never staffed apparently) and never got a call back. We won't be renewing our account.

Teen, 15 years old Written byhillash April 17, 2011
AGE
6
QUALITY
 

gooooooooooooooooooooooooood

love it

What other families should know
Too much swearing

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