Animal JamFall 2016 Website
Animal Jam is a virtual world companion to the National Geographic Kids magazine and website. On this website, children aged ten and up select and customize an animal avatar and begin exploring the land of Jamaa. They play games, collect treasures, go on adventures, and interact with other real players.
Considering the fact that this is a National Geographic website, I expected there to be much more educational content. Most of the games are arcade-style and lack any educational value (the main exception is the Temple of Trivia). This is not to say that they were not entertaining for my children; there are games that mimic pinball, Bejeweled, and Memory as well as a virtual claw machine. By playing these games, children earn gems to purchase accessories for their avatars. Thus, it becomes a self-sustaining loop of playing, earning, and buying.
The focus really does seem to be on the social networking aspect. There is a code of conduct that all users must agree to and abide by in order to remain in good standing. There are messages about safety as well as good behavior. During our review period, we had no issues or incidents while using the website.
Parents who understand that this website is more social than scholarly, will not be disappointed. Our recommendation is that if you do allow your children (ages 10+) to play here, make sure you're aware of the conversations and interactions in which they are engaging. Not that it's dangerous in anyway; it's just good digital family practice. It's clear that the site developers and hosts agree.