As parents, your social media concerns are most likely centered around Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook. These sites have lots of teenage users, and let’s be honest: keeping up with the trends and habits on three sites is more than enough work. Unfortunately, the internet is vast beyond comprehension, and your parental awareness has to extend a little further than those big three.
Let’s start with Tumblr.
What Is Tumblr?
“…a blogging platform that makes it easier to post video, audio, words, social bookmarks, photos, and even other people’s blog posts into your blog, and share it with other people. Instead of having to upload things to YouTube, Delicious or Flickr, or create your own WordPress database before posting things, you can put your media directly into Tumblr from your computer or mobile phone. It’s blogging, the way blogging was meant to be.”
Users create their own blogs and connect with other people by following and sharing their blog content and posting comments. The site has long appealed to the younger population.
What Do Tumblrs Blog About?
The variety is as wide as the internet itself, but this 2013 article broke it down into three main categories:
- Daily Life: This includes hanging out with friends, eating, shopping, and so on.
- Memes and Gifs: These entertaining posts are easy to find and share.
Teenagers and Tumblr
Common Sense Media notes high levels of sex- and drug-related material as well as coarse language, much of which you might prefer your teen not be exposed to on a regular basis.
“Though the keyword search does block terms such as ‘porn,’ ‘F—‘ and ‘sex,’ curious kids could still stumble upon racy, and even raunchy, images and writings. (There’s really everything under the sun here — positive and negative.)”
They rate the app for users over the age of 15, while parents who reviewed it say 16, and the kids who reviewed it say 13. The Tumblr terms of service do not allow those under age 13 to use it (though it pays to note that this can often be bypassed by a younger child who lies about his or her birthday when creating an account).
This article on Very Well outlines some of the benefits of Tumblr for teenagers, including the exposure to ideas and concepts from around the world, the opportunity to network, and the space in which to explore and develop new interests.
However, the article also points out the risks:
- Privacy: There is no option to have a totally private profile on Tumblr, though you can make certain posts private.
- Scams: As with email and other social media sites, there are scams associated with Tumblr in which thieves try to lift passwords and other private information from users.
- Pornography: “Tumblr allows sexually-explicit material to be posted to the site. Pornographic videos are not allowed to be posted directly to Tumblr but links to pornography are allowed.” Since profiles aren’t private, your child can easily come across this material, intentionally or unintentionally.
- Unhealthy Behavior: As with other social sites, communities will form around extreme dieting and eating disorders, self-harm, and other destructive behavior.
New Developments: Safe Mode
Over the summer, Tumblr users gained the option of setting the “safe mode” which would filter out adult-oriented content. However, the way the site defines “sensitive” material also includes certain “…artistic nudity or nudity in an educational or photojournalistic context.”
When a user comes across this type of content, they see a warning screen that can be bypassed if the user so chooses (and is over age 18). A user must also first choose to opt-in to safe mode, something a curious teenager probably would not care to do.
Should You Block Tumblr?
Maybe so. Here are few points to consider:
- Your Child’s Age and Maturity: Some 13-year-olds can handle social media; some 17-year-olds (and many adults, for that matter) struggle to discern real from fake when it comes to news and images. Tumblr might not be the best “starter platform” for your child when it comes to social media. Facebook or Instagram might be easier for you to monitor, and it is less likely that your child will come across sexually explicit material on those networks.
- How Does Your Child Use Tumblr? A focus on dog memes or car repair doesn’t mean he’ll never come across explicit content, but if his Tumblr account is helping him learn more about something he’s interested in, it might be worth allowing that to continue.
- Your Relationship With Your Child: Do you communicate well? Do you trust her to tell you about dangerous or uncomfortable experiences she has online? Do you regularly catch him in a lie? Can you be open with your child about monitoring her internet use and her Tumblr account?
- It Might Be Easier to Prevent It Than Take It Away: If Tumblr is off the table from the very beginning, your teen doesn’t know what she’s missing and might find Snapchat and Instagram to be interesting and time-consuming enough. However, once a child is active on a platform with connections to other users, it might be more difficult for you to enforce a shutdown of the account. This, of course, depends on your parenting style, your child’s behavior, and your relationship.
If you do decide to block Tumblr and other specific sites and apps on your teen’s mobile device, see why Netsanity has the powerful tools to help guide your child’s internet use until they are ready to manage it on their own.