A cautionary tale about Animal Jam
Animal Jam is a free-to-play online roleplaying world developed by National Geographic Kids and has an educational aspect to it: While children go exploring, they learn animal facts, build dens and watch nature videos. There’s also an online chat component to it, which sounds like it will be well monitored.
The game is aimed at 7 – 12 year olds, and there are parental controls which are effective. You can control how freely you want your child to be able to chat, but you can’t control what anyone else can say—which means that while your own child may be restricted to just simple phrases like “Hello,” “Thanks,” and “Goodbye,” there are plenty of kids, teens, and adults on there who can type just about whatever they want and your child will see it.
Whilst playing on Animal Jam, a child has been a victim of cyber-bullying through the online chat. Other players have persuaded the child to buy jewels for them through iTunes and gift them to their accounts. He has spent £74 because he was threatened by the other players that they would not be his friend if he didn’t do as they asked him. He was called ‘weirdo’ and, despite asking them to leave him alone, intimidated into doing something he knew what wrong.
The capacity for this game to be misused by online predators and bullies is huge, and it is advisable to only allow your child to play this game and others like it within your presence.