What is it?
A free to play, online multiplayer game, launched in 2010 in association with National Geographic. Aimed at the 7 – 12 age range, Animal Jam is an award-winning community set in the virtual land of Jamaa, where players are encouraged to learn about the natural world.
What they say
‘Animal Jam is a safe and exciting online playground for kids who love animals and the outdoors. Players create and customize their own animal characters and dens, chat with friends, adopt pets, team up for adventures, and feed their curiosity about animals and the natural world around them.’
The game is free to play but if you pay to become a member you receive numerous perks that non-members don’t have, like being able to adopt a pet.
1 month costs £4.95, every month
6 months cost £19.95 every six months
12 months cost £37.95 for a one-time payment.
A portion of your Animal Jam membership fee goes to help National Geographic's Big Cats Initiative.
What’s the reality?
Animal Jam is fun and colourful with plenty in it to amuse, entertain and educate. Players explore Jamaa and its different lands and ecosystems collecting fun animal facts from each region along the way.
You can buy clothes and other items for your avatar, and furniture for your den, go to parties and keep up to date with the latest news in the Jamaaa Journal, all while being subtly bombarded with interesting animal facts.
Gems are the currency in Jamaa. They are earnt by playing mini arcade games. You can also redeem gem codes found in magazines or advertisements.
Jammers can trade their unwanted items with other players using the AJ Trading System which keeps them safe from scammers. Scamming typically involves a player 'gifting' an item to another player, with the promise of receiving something in return later. That return gift doesn’t arrive.
The Animal Jam team does moderate players attempting to scam others, while regularly recommending that people only use the AJ Trading system to trade.
Parents can easily avoid this risk completely if they wish, by disabling their child’s trade and/or gift functions on their dashboard.
What parents need to know
To set up a proper account, a child needs their parent’s email up front. They create a player name, user name and password then enter the email. Parents then receive an email telling them they have 120 days to activate the account.
To activate the account the parent clicks the button in the email. They then choose how their child bubble chats to other players in the game using either a list of predetermined words or of predetermined phrases.
Chat filters and live moderation help protect your child when they play Animal Jam. Inappropriate behaviour is dealt with. Depending on how bad the behaviour is, a warning is sent to the offending child, game play may be paused or suspended (temporarily or permanently) and an email is sent to the child’s parents.
There is also an app version of the game Animal Jam – Play Wild! that is free to download on Android and iOS but comes with in-app purchases. The app comes with a PEGI 3 rating and is aimed at 9 – 11 year olds.
Are there appropriate parental controls and are they easy to use?
By setting up your parent account, you can then monitor all player accounts that have been set up using your email address and change their settings.
When you are in the parent dashboard, by clicking on the Safe Chat option you are allowing the player to freely type words and phrases, which are still run through the game’s safety chat filter.
Parents can also choose to enable or disable a number of social features (Jammer Wall, gifting, trading) as well controlling access to the game.
Is it age-appropriate and are age settings clearly indicated?
There is no clear indication about the age children should be when playing Animal Jam although the makers say it is aimed at 7 – 12 year olds.
Animal Jam’s cutesy, cartoonish appearance will appeal to younger players who can easily explore the world and play games but to read the animal facts and the rules of the mini games as well as being able to type and chat to other players, 7-12 is appropriate.
How easy is it for users and parents to report issues?
The Animal Jam Help Centre button is on the top bar of the Animal Jam website homepage. Players (or their parents) can report the bad behaviour of other players by clicking on the 'report' button in the lower right corner of their player card.
You can also block troublesome players. Animal Jam moderators review each report and if a Jammer is found to be breaking the rules action will be taken against them like suspending their account or disabling their chat facility.
Is it commercially responsible?
The game is also linked to a store which sells Animal Jam themed clothing, wristbands, gift certificates and additional gems to play the game with.
Is the functionality appropriate to the age of users?
Functionality is perfectly suited to the recommended age group as players need to be able to read and type to fully enjoy the game.
Are the terms and conditions of use easy to understand and find?
The terms and conditions page is linked to at the bottom of the homepage, as are the rules and privacy pages. All are clear and easy to understand. The rules also pop up throughout the game.
There’s so much to do and explore in Animal Jam’s world that it can be a little overwhelming at first. But players who persevere and stick to the rules will enjoy it.
And while the gentle barrage of animal facts and attempts to educate children about the natural world will appeal to parents, doubtless most children playing the game will be more drawn to buying stuff, trading and chatting with other players.
The makers, WildWorks, have clearly put a lot of thought and effort into keeping children safe online and parents too have been given the power to control and monitor their child’s account.