What is Tumblr? The Complete Go-To Guide for Parents
**This blog post was updated on April 20, 2021.**
Are your kids into Tumblr? If so, they’re part of a long line of teens and tweens that have used the platform over the past 15 years to create, share, and view content. It’s known for its supportive and encouraging communities, especially around creativity. Tumblr reached a peak back in the mid-2010s, but it’s still a fairly popular place for younger folks to gather online. In January 2021, more than 327 million unique visitors from around the world accessed the site. So, just what is Tumblr? In this post, we’ll explain everything you need to know about this perennial kid-favorite, including safety features and dangers you need to watch out for.
What is Tumblr?
Tumblr is what’s known as a “microblog” site. Compared to long-form posts on say, the Bark Blog (which you’re reading now), Tumblr posts are usually bite-sized snippets. They can be a simple photo, an inspirational quote, a GIF, or even a single sentence. Users can post their own content, or they can share someone else’s (that’s called reblogging). The site is heavily interactive, with users commenting frequently on each other’s posts.
Think of Tumblr kind of like an Instagram or a Facebook feed, but with a little of Pinterest’s functionality. When you find someone you like or someone you know, you can follow their account. You’ll then see a stream of content on your dashboard (like your Facebook home feed). Many people use Tumblr to discover new things — fan art, photography inspiration, memes, and more. Subcultures are common on the platform, creating communities of users that provide safe spaces for each other. Because accounts aren’t necessarily tied to your identity (usernames can be whatever you want), some users feel like there’s more freedom than with platforms like Instagram or Snapchat.
Like any social media, the main dangers to kids include viewing inappropriate content and messaging with strangers. As a niche platform, Tumblr has darker pockets of content ranging from self-harm to depictions of explicit sexual activity. The direct messaging feature could lead to communication with online predators, as well as a jump to another messaging platform like texting or WhatsApp. And because much of Tumblr’s activity revolves around commenting and many of its users are younger, cyberbullying can be something to watch out for.
The Rise and Fall of Sexual Content of Tumblr
For a long time, Tumblr was a go-to source of free pornography for thousands of people. It was kind of an open secret on the internet and drove incredible amounts of users and traffic to the site. Pornographic GIFs, videos, and still images were easily found with just a few clicks, with no age-gating to help protect kids from inappropriate content. Then, in late 2018, Tumblr banned adult content for everyone, regardless of age. This move was directed in an effort to end child sex abuse material on the platform. As a result, users fled the site, and the company’s net worth took an enormous dive — revealing sadly just how important this content was to Tumblr’s popularity.
Sexual content can still be found on the site, however. It’s just nowhere near as common as it once was. You’ll often find images removed and replaced with Tumblr’s boilerplate “This post has violated community guidelines,” indicating that it was reported and taken down. There is also lots of borderline content that isn’t technically pornographic but can be very suggestive.
While private accounts are not currently a feature on Tumblr, there are some ways to make your child’s experience safer. Here’s how to help limit inappropriate content they may encounter while on the platform:
- Navigate to their dashboard then click their profile icon.
- Click Settings.
- Scroll down until you see the Filtering section.
- To block certain hashtags from appearing in their feed, enter in the subjects you’re concerned about in the Filtered Tags section.
- To prevent posts with certain text content from showing up on your child’s feed as well as in search, enter in the keywords you’d like to block in the Filtered Posts section.
If they encounter bullies on Tumblr, your kid can report them to Tumblr for violating community guidelines. They can also choose to block them, which will prohibit the bully from:
- Interacting with your child’s post.
- Sending your child messages.
- Following your child.
- Seeing your child in search results.
When a new Tumblr user creates an account, Safe Mode is the default setting for search results. This automatically blocks explicit content from appearing in search results. Safe Mode can be turned off for account holders 18 years of age or older. However, kids can quickly bypass this by entering in a fake birthdate — there’s no confirmation needed to prove it.
What Bark Monitors on Tumblr
As we’ve discussed, your kid may be exposed to a lot of different types of content on the platform. They may also share content — both personally created and reblogged from others — that you should know about as a parent. When connected, Bark’s award-winning service monitors your child’s account for signs of potential issues like cyberbullying, online predators, sexual content, depression, and more. Here’s what Bark can monitor on Tumblr:
- Photo posts
- Blog posts
We hope this post has answered the question “What is Tumblr?” and beyond for your family. The platform has made big strides in the past few years to try and maintain a safe experience, but it’s probably too dangerous for younger kids, even with the filtering features you can customize. As for older kids, we recommend sitting down with them and talking about some of the accounts they follow, as well as what they like to post. Keep in mind that it’s not uncommon for kids to have multiple accounts, though — kind of like a Tumblr version of a “Finsta.” As always, the more you know and talk about what’s going on in your child’s world, the safer they’ll be.