You’re familiar with Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and even TikTok. Maybe you’ve set up rules about these social media channels for your children and ensured their privacy settings are maximized. But have you considered that your child may be using the blogging site Tumblr as a social network site as well? And if so, is Tumblr safe for kids to use in such a public way?
Many teens and even tweens are drawn to Tumblr, which plays by its own set of rules and has a completely different setup than the picture-driven, instant action of options such as Snapchat and Instagram. Find out more about this social network below, including tips on keeping your children safe if this is their preferred digital stomping ground.
What Is Tumblr?
Tumblr is a microblogging site. It’s designed to make it easy to post short text blogs, links, GIFs, music, videos, images, and other types of content. Most Tumblr text content is shorter than the types of blogs you find on Blogger and longer than the quips relevant to Twitter.
Users can post their own content right from their Tumblr dashboard. They can also like and comment on other people’s posts and reblog posts, which is somewhat akin to the share function on Facebook.
Who Can Use Tumblr?
To sign up for Tumblr, all you need is an email address, password, and username. Tumblr terms of service require users to be 13 years old or older. However, as with other social platforms, age is verified based on the date of birth the user enters. That means younger children could create an account by lying about their age.
Once you have an account, you can create multiple blogs under that account and follow an unlimited number of blogs from others.
How Popular Is Tumblr with Kids?
Tumblr has one of the youngest audiences out of all the social networks. Around 45 percent of Tumblr users are under the age of 35. Tumblr is also more popular than Facebook with people aged 13 through 25.
While Tumblr draws teens (and adults) of all backgrounds and genders, it has a higher number of teen female users than teen male users.
Tumblr Culture: What Makes Tumblr Different?
Tumblr culture is unique, and that’s part of the draw of it for many teens. Tumblr isn’t seen as the “cool kids” network—that designation is more likely to go to Instagram. You don’t use Tumblr to post pictures of your real (or carefully curated) life. In fact, Tumblr posts perform better when they’re less literally attached to the tedium of day to day and more relevant to overall feels and moods.
It’s also easier to remain anonymous on Tumblr. Teens often set up user names and blogs without telling anyone else about them—including parents or school friends. Tumblr becomes a digital diary of sorts. Teens don’t catalog the details of the day, but they do share jokes, anecdotes, memes, and other content that speaks to their joys, fears, humor, and frustrations. In doing so, they look for others who relate, building an online tribe.
Because each user can create multiple blogs on Tumblr, teens can parcel out their interests, breaking up their personalities into well-filtered fronts that help them connect faster with specific types of people and farm the like and reblog machine for greater attention.
Is Tumblr Safe for Kids?
It’s a culture that drives both benefits and disadvantages. Teens who want to celebrate or enjoy something can connect with like-minded people, even if they don’t have local friends or family to do this with. That’s one reason Tumblr so popular.
But Tumblr has a darker side that can be concerning. Here’s what parents should know.
- Privacy is an illusion. Tumblr is a public blogging platform. What you put out on it can be searched and found by anyone. Users can create seemingly anonymous names for their accounts and blogs, but it’s not difficult for others to link these together. And if a Tumblr user becomes viral, gaining many followers, those followers are likely to do the detective work to figure out the person’s identity.
- Tumblr content runs the ratings gambit. While Tumblr banned porn and a lot of nudity in late 2018, it’s still a bastion of content parents might not want children ingesting on a regular basis. From ribald jokes to monologues on serious mental health issues, Tumblr content can be PG, PG-13, or R-rated at any given moment. And searches on seemingly innocent words and topics can land you anywhere in that range.
- It’s easy to get caught up in the culture. For many teens, Tumblr culture is a comfortable place to rest from what might be a less welcoming real world. And while that can be a good thing in moderation, it’s easy to get caught up in the culture, letting Tumblr take over time that should be spent on school work, extracurricular endeavers, and social and family relationships. In this way, Tumblr is actually a lot like other social networks.
How Can Parents Help Kids Use Tumblr Safely?
The most important way parents can protect kids of all ages online is to stay appropriately involved in their digital lives. What that looks like depends on your parenting style and the age and maturity of your kids. It can be a good idea to make rules about when kids can access individual social media platforms such as requiring them to be a certain age before they can sign up and download the relevant apps. Another option is to set time limits for how long each day teens can have screen-time or be on social media.
If your teen is already on Tumblr or you think they’re ready to take on this responsibility, consider some of the following steps.
- Regularly discuss social media, including the responsibilities of using it. Make sure teens are aware that what they post on social media today might impact their future.
- Keep privacy and safety a top concern. Demand that teens use appropriate privacy settings on social media. For apps such as Tumblr, make realistic rules about what’s off limits for sharing—such as names, addresses, locations, and other personally identifying information.
- Set a good example. Follow all your own rules when on social media. Teens aren’t the only ones who shouldn’t be handing out their addresses on social, and if you want your teen to use Tumblr as a positive communication tool, that’s how you should use your own social profiles.