Is Tumblr Safe For Early Teens?
Many teenagers have made themselves at home using Tumblr. For entrepreneuring users, Tumblr is a powerful publishing platform that can be a used to get their name out and even capitalize on business opportunities. For others, it’s a place for teens to discover, share, or even create content about the things they love most.
Tumblr can connect them with like-minded peers who understand their interests and sense of humor. It can be an outlet for both creativity and angst, and a responsible and mature pre-teen can find people with common interests, beliefs, and opinions. This has caused a lot of parents to question whether Tumblr is safe for pre-teens. What are its benefits and drawbacks?
The Truth About Tumblr
Unlike other social media sites, Tumblr users are encouraged to pick an anonymous handle rather than use their own name. Tumblr is easy to use and set up, which is the main draw it has for pre-teens. Even the most technologically challenged adult can set up an account and be posting within five minutes. Most teens, however, take the time to personalize their blog with custom images, fonts, and other web design. Other social media platforms do not offer personalization at this level, which is attractive to many young people.
From there, Tumblr users can use their profile to “microblog,” by sharing (typically) short text posts, pictures, videos, and other media. More often, though, users use their blogs to share or “reblog” other people’s posts, adding their own commentary in the form of text or hashtags, which are used to help others find their content.
There is a privacy setting, but it doesn’t keep others from seeing a user’s blog, only from commenting on a profile. There is nothing stopping malicious users from sharing a post and making comments about it on their own walls.
With anonymity protecting them, some Tumblr users have used the site to harass, bully, and even stalk other users. Few people use the privacy settings because they are so counter-intuitive to the way Tumblr works. There have been “Tumblr celebrities,” and the only way to become “Tumblr Famous” is to have at least 1,000 followers, causing users to ignore the privacy settings in order to gain followers.
This can open them up to all sorts of exploitation. Even celebrities like Taylor Swift have been attacked with posts that are, at best, verbally abusive (in Swift’s case, the hashtag #SwiftiesWantTaylorSwiftDead went far beyond those bounds). The good news is that amongst Tumblr’s very few rules, posts encouraging suicide, eating disorders, and other self-harm are forbidden. The bad news is that users receiving such hateful messages have to report them in order for them to be addressed.
Taylor Swift has been a victim of bullying on Tumblr
Despite the ban on certain types of posts, most posts are okay with Tumblr, even “not safe for work posts,” which are sometimes marked with the tag “NSFW”. These do not come pre-filtered. There are settings that can filter it out, but it is the user’s responsibility to block adult content if they choose to. NSFW content might include adult content such as pornography, violence, and racism. Tumblr relies on the honor system of including warnings before the content. However, not everyone adheres to this, and a warning is not the same as not seeing it.
The Anonymous Tumblr Post
As a whole, Tumblr is an example of great power coming with great responsibility. The content of Tumblr is not monitored, and this enables people to say what they want anonymously, with little risk of consequences or backlash. This doesn’t mean they should say it, but not everyone sees it that way. People post things that wind up having consequences, whether large or small. Tumblr posts have the potential to be seen by a lot of people, and encourages being seen by as many people as possible. People make posts to attract attention, which can lead to the temptation to post these things oneself because one’s friends are.
Pre-teens can find a creative outlet in using Tumblr, but parents have the double duty of protecting their children from bullying and predators, and keeping their children from inadvertently becoming the bully. Awareness is everything: be involved with your pre-teen’s use of all social media, including Tumblr, and take the time to learn about it yourself.
Talk to your teen about being responsible about what they post. Teach them “netiquette,” or internet manners, even in anonymous settings. Most importantly, teach them how not to reveal personal information about themselves. Monitor their activity, or even work together on a page. There are ways to block adult content and unwanted contact, as well as apps to keep an eye on what your pre-teen is posting.
Tumblr is very popular, and when used responsibly, can be rewarding for your teen or pre-teen, but only with proper supervision. Eventually they will come into contact with social media, and establishing good habits of use now will set the foundation for their use of it as they get older. By staying alert about what your pre-teen is posting and supervising their Tumblr activity, many of the negative aspects of Tumblr can be avoided, creating a rewarding experience that can encourage your pre-teen’s growth.