Computers can be educational, and so can the Internet. There are great websites that teach kids history, or how to program, or even basic skills like math.
National Geographic’s Animal Jam, however, is mostly a waste of time. It’s way down there with Club Penguin, The Sims, Bin Weevils, and all those other virtual worlds (or should I say “wastes”). You play mini games with the intellectual level of Pacman, earn points, decorate your home, and can talk to other people online if you pay extra to become a member.
It’s almost as much a waste of time as social networking.
Sure, your child might learn a thing or two if they bother to stop to read factoids that pop up in between games, or if they watching a few mini videos.
But after three days of playing, most of the children I observed and asked learned pretty much nothing. When they knew they were being tested, they paid more attention so they could continue playing. But, they still learned mostly how to destroy virtual pests by shooting virtual cannons, and very little about the real world.
I miss the old days, when I was a kid, when kids read the full version of National Geographic. Remember when adults actually read books and magazines were for kids?
Then, the kids edition came along, and we were lucky if adults could read the magazine. Now, if a kid plays the online game for three years, they may learn the equivalent of a reading a magazine article.
Seriously, it’s fun to try to dress up as “scary”, but the educational value is close to zero. Your child learns hand eye coordination with the mouse, and there are puzzles, but they might as well play Mario Brothers or Sudoku.
It’s not the worst “educational” spin off I’ve ever seen however. There’s a history board game invented by the Museum of London that has the years events happened. The years are treated merely as numbers as the players advance around the board.
Deceive yourself if you will, but Animal Jam will teach the average kid nothing. And the curious kid will be so distracted by the mini-games, that they are unlikely to spend as much time picking up on facts as if they had a magazine in front of them.