The Secret Tumblr Craze and What Parents Need to Know

Your kids have all but vanished from Facebook and their Instagram postings are becoming more and more sporadic. If this sounds familiar, chances are, they are posting to Tumblr, a micro-blogging platform that is a social cross between Twitter, Facebook, and a traditional blog.

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It is easy to understand why Tumblr appeals to tweens and teens: A) Parents (for the most part) are not on it B) It’s easier to share media instantly than other platforms via its chunky icons and fun interface and C) Tumblr’s vibe is far more creative and artsy than most platforms, and highlights self-expression and humor exchanges at a whole new level.

Tumblr pages include content in bite-sized pieces that are fun and easy to update. And, because of its mobile app, it is often easy to use Tumblr between classes throughout the school day. Tumblr users create short blogs, or “tumblelogs” in the form of writing, photos, quotes, links, music, voice messages, and videos. Tumblr’s functionality is very similar to Facebook but it aggregates its various blogs into distinct groups (writers, music, tech, illustration, etc.).

Tumblr is creative, packed with learning, and becoming a kind of secret community for teens where they can connect with peers and interests in a parent free social zone.

It also holds safety threats that echo any other social platform with the addition (in this mom’s opinion) of encountering far more mature content depending on what tags or blogs a user follows. So, here are some things to think about and discuss with your family regarding Tumblr.

Family discussion points

Tumblr contains mature content. It does not allow users under the age of 12 but we recommend 15 or 16, in line with this Common Sense Media review.

Consider filtering software. As with any other platform, we recommend filtering software be used on the family computer to minimize in appropriate content coming into your home.

Primary Tumblr accounts are all public. An account cannot be made private unless a user creates a second blog under a new name, here’s how. Your child’s primary Tumblr blog will always be public. Period. Outsiders can easily comment on posts and send direct messages to users. 

Blog posts can be published privately. Even though you can’t password-protect your primary blog, you can make specific posts private by selecting “private” in the “publish now” menu when you create or edit a post. If you’re using the Bookmarklet, you’ll find this option in the Advanced area.

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You can “ignore” other users. Much like the “block” function on Facebook or Twitter, the “ignore” function comes in handy on Tumblr. This means select users will not be able to see your posts on their Dashboard. You won’t “ignored” people (or bogs) listed in post notes or Dashboard notifications. You will also not receive any messages from them.

Review blogs. Review your child’s Tumblr account and list of “Blogs Followed” he is connecting to. It is not surprising to find explicit language, vulgar memes, or questionable quotes of photos posted on a blog—even if the first few blog entries appear harmless.


Toni Birdsong is a Family Safety Evangelist to McAfee. You can find her on Twitter McAfee_Family. (Disclosures).

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