A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this website.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Pottermore features abundant Harry Potter information and some activities; it's easy to see how kids could get sucked into Pottermore and spend a lot of time there. Kids should have a safe experience, although it does discuss the death of Harry's parents, and creatures like ghouls and trolls do pop up from time to time on the site, which could scare younger kids. There's a store that sells ebooks, posters, and other digital items, although there are some items that can't be bought in the U.S. Kids 12 and under may be frustrated that they can't access the virtual Hogwarts; that part of the site requires registration, and you have to be 13 or older to sign up.
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What's it about?
POTTERMORE is a site that hosts and expands on all things from the world of Harry Potter. Kids who've always wanted to step into Harry Potter's shoes can discover their Patronus (a magical animal that protects you from harm), answer a few questions and have the sorting hat determine which house they'll live in, join a book club based on the novels, or take a virtual tour of Hogwarts. They can also read about characters, magic, locations, and other elements from the popular J.K. Rowling series. New pieces from the author are also published on the site.
Is it any good?
This beautifully illustrated website brims with places to explore and people to meet, serving as an excellent complement to the books and films. Thoughts from J.K. Rowling interspersed throughout the virtual world give kids the exclusive story on her inspirations; kids also get a chance to read new original writing from the famed author. The site launched in 2012 and was redesigned in 2015, with more of a focus on articles, character profiles, and other written items -- a move that upset some fans who liked the interactive features the site's previous format offered, including games that gave users house points. The current version has some interactive elements; fans can take a brief quiz to get assigned to a house, for example. Pottermore has also added a graphically impressive virtual tour of Hogwarts that provides snippets from the story.
Kids may find it a little frustrating that you seem to need to click on all the information hot spots to move to an entirely new area; enhancing some of the descriptions with images or video would also make the tour a more dynamic experience. But even without those items -- or additional interactive elements incorporated throughout the other sections of the site -- Pottermore provides a hefty amount of background information about the characters, places, spells, and other items featured in the books and corresponding films. There should be plenty of Hogwarts-related plot highlights and other in-depth content -- such as a look at Hogwarts textbooks that Muggles would like to read -- to interest fervent fans. Kids who are new to the series can use the site as a resource and can also join a Harry Potter-based book club. Participants are encouraged to discuss the books on Twitter, but because that can expose kids to other types of content, parents may want to supervise any time they spend reading or posting comments on the social media site.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what's a reasonable amount of time to spend online each day or week. Shouldn't you spend more time reading the books of J.K. Rowling than reading the online site of her work? Why or why not?
Talk about how the Harry Potter books, movies, games, and websites offer different perspectives on J.K. Rowling's stories for audiences of different ages. Is there one type of Harry Potter media that you like more than the others? Why?
Friendship and working together is a common theme in the Harry Potter books. What advantages can you gain from helping people, and from not feeling like you have to do everything yourself?
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