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Is it OK for my kid to join an online playground like Animal Jam?

Online playgrounds like  Animal Jam are digital environments where kids can create an avatar, explore three-dimensional scenes, complete fun tasks, and interact with others. They're popular with kids in elementary school because they offer built-in safety features including things like age-verification for members, filtered chat, and human monitors that protect kids who aren't yet ready for multiplayer games and social media.

Whether it's an app or a website, an online playground can be a good way to allow young kids to explore new environments and learn responsible online behavior. But there are some things to be mindful of, including interaction with other players, costs, screen limits, and social dynamics if your kid joins a world with friends from school. To make sure your kid stays safe and has fun, you should stay involved. Here are some signs to look for to make sure a virtual world is OK for your kid:

  • Chat is pre-set or "canned." Kids select phrases from a list rather than free-typing. Inappropriate words are blocked.
  • Limited exposure to advertising. Sites that charge a subscription fee probably won't run ads -- although they will have promotions and campaigns to encourage kids to come back. Some branded sites will have fun activities but also will be promoting their products.
  • Human monitors. High-quality sites employ real human monitors who oversee the players.
  • Reports. Some sites will send you a report of your child's activities. If it's an educational site, the report may include an evaluation of your child's skills.
  • Responsive customer service. You want to get a quick response if anything goes wrong, you need to cancel, or you just want to give the site some feedback. Read online reviews by other parents to learn more about a company's customer service.
  • Age-appropriate learning and social games. Before you register your kid, spend some time interacting on the site yourself or with your kid. Do you like the games? Does your kid like them? Are the activities engaging? Does the website update the games to keep them fresh?
  • Cooperative play. Some virtual worlds design games wherein kids have to work together to make progress.
  • Neutral avatar designs. Make sure your kid can design characters that are every color of the rainbow and don't have stereotypical male or female traits. (Pink sneakers are OK, but pink stilettos? Um, no.)
  • Manageable costs. Virtual worlds support themselves using various fee models. Some charge a subscription and allow users to earn in-game currency to pay for items, such as (virtual) furnishings for their (virtual) apartments, in the game. Some virtual worlds are free to use but rely on in-app purchases for their revenue. Make sure you know how the virtual operates and discuss how much you're willing to pay for it.
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Comments

Adult written by nmanrethy

(chat) Most of the Chats are pre-set such as Roblox's where you can't say any numbers, unusual words, swears, or slurs.(Advertising) People are frequently blocked or reported for self-advertising, as its incredibly irritating. (human monitors) some games have frequently online moderators like Roblox, but some are incredibly hands-off like CSGO (not an online playground). (reports) most games don't monitor the time spent on the game, but on steam, you can monitor time on certain games but most don't include that option. (customer service) A serious load of online playgrounds has incredibly responsive customer service, my friend's Roblox account was taken down after his mom noticed the serious amount of money spent. (age-appropriate learning) Loads upon loads of these games have educational purposes most children can understand, for example, animal jam has informational snippets you can find. (cooperative play) a lot of these games have a friend request system where you can co-op with friends. (avatar designs) a lot of these games have moderated character designs, BUT Roblox has extremely under moderated clothing designs because anyone can make them. (manageable costs) most games do include in-app purchases and subscriptions but are usually for cosmetic items EX: skins, dances, music kits, and private servers. Personal Opinion: Animal Jam is a very educational game, but a decent percent of the fanbase is composed of furries, which can make the game take a very not child friendly turn. I would probably chose a better platform, such as poptropica.
Kid, 11 years old

No. These games consume your life, trust me. I was addicted, but now I’m not. Don’t let your kids play, parents!
Parent of an infant, 1, 4, 11, and 18+-year-old written by Adrianna R.

My kids rarely go onto these websites. They play outside on their bicycles after school, they don't place their rump behind the computer and talk to strange people. They do this when it's raining, or when a massive blizzard is going on outside.
Kid, 11 years old

A virtual world is an environment ment for kids. It has limited messaging and limits ad viewing . However other players can send private messages and friend requests to your kid .it could turn inappropriate fast.