How I'm Using Pottermore to Teach My Kids about Social Media

BlogHer Original Post

Which was what led to the morning when I woke up with my stomach in knots, thinking about how I had to add the lacewing flies that afternoon.  Adding them incorrectly would mean starting over from scratch with another 18 hour wait.  The twins went to school, wishing me good luck.  I was on my own with this.

I tried to keep busy.  I left questions on various forums, begging people to tell me their lacewing-adding methods.  I dueled with a random Brazilian Gryffindor, wondering how I had gotten myself into this mess.  Oh... wait... I remember.  I told the kids how much fun social media is; how it's this great way to connect with others over a common interest.  Which made them want to try it.  Since they are not old enough (nor do I know if we'll allow them to join when they are old enough) for Facebook, kid-centered social media sites such as Pottermore would have to do.

When the timer went off, I took a deep breath and added my lacewing flies.  I followed the instructions of a random New Zealand girl who makes YouTube potion tutorials.  And my G-d, when I saw that smoke start rising from the cauldron, I ran around the room, yelping and leaping.  I went to pick up the kids from school with the biggest grin on my face, presenting them with our three identical Polyjuice potions which we "drank" to enter the Slytherin common room.

Pottermore is a great soft landing into the world of social media.  Personal details about our lives are removed in favour of randomly-generated user names.  There is a common room board where people can post messages, but everything from certain words to all numbers are banned from usage.  It's an online world where there is no name-calling, no stalking, no teasing.  They can "meet" people from all over the world without really "meeting" them. 

And more importantly, it's social media that we're doing together.  I'm using it as a teaching moment as much as I'm using it as a fun (fun?) activity that we can do together.  We compare life on Pottermore to life on Facebook; and I allow them to see how adults sometimes talk to one another vs. how kids address each other on their site.  We talk about when to accept friend requests and when to reject them.  We discuss the importance of circumspection online, as well as how one should feel emotionally after using social media.  If it is causing you undo stress, log off. 

I know, I know, I should have taken my own advice with the lacewing flies.

But I also wanted to use that moment to talk about sticking around, trying to accomplish something, and maybe even feeling a little uneasy as you complete the hard work.  This time, it was a potion.  When they're in middle school, it might be a discussion.  I want them to learn responsibility, I want them to learn how to give and receive support, and I want them mostly to learn about fun.  Because social media, at its core, should connect us.

Back in 2010, @shaylamaddox tweeted that Twitter makes her like people she's never met, and Facebook makes her hate people she used to like.  And while I giggled because sometimes it's so true, it was also a warning call to make social media different for my kids.  The first generation of users may have gotten off to a rocky start online as we figure out etiquette.  Hopefully the next users will do better, though the only way we can do that is if we teach them not to remake our mistakes.

Do you participate in social media with your child?

Melissa writes Stirrup Queens and Lost and Found. Her novel about blogging is Life from Scratch.

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