Animal Jam

Common Sense Media says

Beware unmonitored chat in Nat Geo virtual world.

Age

2
3
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5
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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. It's fun, but while the site claims to have safe chat, privacy, and parental control features, they're not keeping up their end of the bargain. Sexual content and bullying is common, filters don't seem to catch bad language, and customer support is difficult to contact. 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

  • friendship building
  • conveying messages effectively

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

  • friendship building
  • conveying messages effectively

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

Kids 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

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Written byAnonymous September 18, 2011
AGE
7
QUALITY
 

Good, until recently.

Before you start going 'why did that person give this only two stars?' let me explain myself. I loved Animal Jam until the Elephant pet came out. After that one pet, everything went downhill. You can't do ANYTHING unless you pay real-world money for membership! Non-members can't even receive gifts in the mail, meaning that all your rare items that you wanted to put on your new account are now stuck forever in your mailbox! This site was great... until recently.
What other families should know
Educational value
Parent Written bysandiegomom February 8, 2013
AGE
18
QUALITY
 

Adults Playing, Pretending to be Kids!

Parents need to know that this online game hosts chatrooms disguised as "dens for the animals." Although the website screens for inappropriate content, they are not consistent. Additionally, innocent words can be combined to form phrases that indicate sexual activity. This is what happened to my daughter. You can also read other characters' conversations, and I believe there are adults pretending to be children playing online. There are animals simulating having sex by description. For example, the words "pin down" can be used, and "in and out, in and out", and "make babies", and "breath, feels good." I found this out purely by accident. In December, I received an email from Animal Jam saying that my daughter was using inappropriate role play. When I logged onto the parent portion, there was nothing in her discipline history to indicate anything bad had happened. I emailed Animal Jam from my parent link, and they told me I needed to send them my child's user name. When next I tried that, their email link would not work. I tried to call several times, but nobody ever answers the phone lines. It says that they are closed because their hours of operation are between 7 am - 7 pm MST, even when I call during those hours. Finally, I am able to get an email through two months later, and then they list a discipline issue AFTER they get my email with an occurence that happened in January. I asked them for exact wording, and words such as above were used by my daughter who is not even allowed to watch TV (we don't have one!). I asked her where she learned those phrases, and she said that she read them in dialogue between other animals on Animal Jam. Parents, these are phrases that kids just don't use. There are adults on this website who are pretending to be children, and they are exposing the children to inappropriate content. If I hadn't been persistent in following up, I would have never found out. I thought my daughter was playing National Geographic's educational-type games, and I was unaware that the emphasis was on online social interaction. I called National Geographic to discuss my concern, and I was told that Animal Jam is NOT part of National Geographic. They just have a partnership, and National Geographic has neither control over what Animal Jam does nor access to our children's account information. BEWARE!!!! I trusted Animal Jam because of the National Geographic logo and the stellar reputation that goes with it, but National Geographic has just put its name on the Animal Jam product .... and I don't think they realize that Animal Jam is just online social interaction with no educational value. None at all. There are games, but those games do not teach or improve skills. I have been a teacher for almost 20 years now. I am super protective of my daughter, and I was lulled into complacency because of the National Geographic logo. There are predators on this website looking to expose children to sexual content.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Safety and privacy concerns
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.
Parent Written bykcoutts January 31, 2013
AGE
11
QUALITY
 

Warning: Unhealthy Addiction to This Game Will Take Over Your Child's Life

This is a highly addictive multiplayer online role playing game. All parents should be warned before bringing this into their lives that their children will prefer this game over eating, sleeping, exercise, and outings, and you will find yourself saying "no Animal Jam" multiple times daily. Under the National Geographic brand, you will assume this is a "safe" game, with parental controls, but that is not the issue. The problem is with addiction, and that the educational aspects of this are virtually nil, considering it is optional for the children to click on the educational facts, otherwise the main thing they will learn is materialism, as they strive to acquire possessions for their avatar. Other things they will learn are: lying, cheating, and stealing, as experienced players take advantage of new players by lopsided trades, and new players give away their passwords and thus control of their possessions to strangers. You were warned!
What other families should know
Too much consumerism

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