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My nephew (10yo) has approached us about playing AnimalJam and while I see it's sponsored by National Geographic Kids, I'm curious what the safety content of the game is. By that I mean both predatory users (we are talking about online worlds) and child-interactivity (so that would be bullying, aggressive game-play, etc). Is the play world moderated and under surveillance (so to speak) on a regular basis?

What are the positive values that would encourage me to pay for a membership? I know that there is something of "accumulating things, unlocking new characters for play" and the like, it's gamification, we use that here, plus DLC. I'm fine with those things, I just want to make sure that it seems a reasonable investment. He has only been playing this game for a few days, but apparently several of the girls in his class have been playing it too.

As for parental monitoring, I .. was merely asked to vet the game, and do not know if he will be playing this in the vicinity of parents or not. I'd like to know about animal jam in particular, but knowing how to figure these things out in general might also be helpful.

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According to the site, the game is all moderated by staff. Seems about the safest environment you'll get in an online community for kids. –  DA01 Jan 25 '12 at 5:16
    
Yeah I was hoping for experience. –  jcolebrand Jan 25 '12 at 5:41
    
I don't think you have to pay for a membership. It just provides you some in game currency. –  Chris M Jan 25 '12 at 13:33
    
you don't have to pay for membership and probably shouldn't bother –  morah hochman Jan 25 '12 at 16:17
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I would broaden this question to not be specific to one website, but how to evaluate websites in general. Below I answered both questions. –  morah hochman Jan 25 '12 at 16:17

3 Answers 3

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My kids have been playing animaljam for a while now and I don't subscribe to the membership. My kids haven't complained about that. They still enjoy it. As for interaction, you can set for your child to chat freely or to choose from a list of set sentences. My daughter says you can report the person if bullying occurs. You can also choose to "ignore" that person so they can't interact with you and vice versa. So far, it has been a good experience for my kids.

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Thanks. He's wanting to have the membership for the gamification aspect, he wants to acquire etc. Unfortunately I'm not in a position to argue proper child rearing techniques, as I think they're encouraging some bad behaviors (the child is almost hoarder-like in his collection of all things - but he's 10, so I mean, he's just a kid) but the question to me was "is it safe" and I saw what you mentioned about the chat portion, but the ignore and whatnot is something I did not explore. Only so many hours in a day, figured someone here was familiar with it :D –  jcolebrand Jan 26 '12 at 15:01

Animal jam is a safe place for children. My daughter has a lovley experience from it. Also you unfortantly have to pay for memberships now but half of the money you pay goes to national geographic to save big cats. On animal jam you have something called the journal where there are things to look for and when you find it it tells you what it is and what it does so it is very educational hope this helps

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When evaluating a website for kids the best way if for you to play multiple times so you get many experiences with the game. Some things to watch out for: 1. does it require a username and password, and if so why? 2. Does it want an email address? (If so use yours not your child's) What will it do with that email address? 3. Are they playing against other people online, or only against yourself? 4. If you are playing against other people is their a way for you to block everyone except approved (by you) players? 5. Does it advertise for itself, asking you to buy things as you play? 6. Does it have advertising on the side of the screen? 7. Does it bring up pop-up windows? 8. Does it ask you to download?

There are not 'correct' answers to these question but you have to evaluate each one.

The best ways to keep you child safe are to have all online access in a public place (that means computers, telephones, ipads, etc). Another important thing to do is have ongoing conversations about online safety (predators, downloading, passwords, bullying, etc). If you continue the dialogue when something happens (which it will eventually) your child will come to you for help.

Good luck navigating the online world, not an easy thing to do.

In terms of the site you asked about, I just went on it very quickly and it appears that, based on answering the questions above I would allow my child to play it. I would be sure, however, to check the parent's dashboard frequently and set the chat options to make it comfortable and safe for my child.

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