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Tumblr is a multimedia microblogging social networking site that many tweens and teens use for streaming a scrapbook of short blogs, images, links, text, and videos and audio clips. Many of my clients love the creative versatility of Tumblr and most choose to have a public profile. Tumblr users commonly form close-knit, highly-involved communities that share common passions. Celebrities like Taylor Swift have benefitted from her 46 million following and reposting fans (#swifties) resulting in consistently viral coverage. Recently a friend of a client detailed her suicide plan on her Tumblr blog, triggering a welfare check from the police. Although this app resulted in a teen getting the help she needed in this instance, often times intimate information is used to get to an unintended victim. Trigger warning with this article due to the graphic and sexual image examples easily found on Tumblr. Sorry folks, but you NEED TO KNOW.

What is Tumblr?

Tumblr is a microblogging, social networking site that you can now use on your phone as an application. It was founded by David Karp and is owned by Yahoo! People use it to post, reblog, or comment on blogs.

What are Tumblr’s popular features?

  • The home screen will contain blogs posted by those you are following.


  • The home screen is where you can see posts made by other people; they can be blogs or reblogs. (Reblogs are when people take a blog and repost it onto their page for more people to see it).
  • To reblog a post you select the two arrows going in a circle; it will take you to a page where you can add something yourself to the post.


  • If you want to just like a post you can tap on the heart to the right of the arrows; if you want to leave a comment you can tap the bubble to the left of the arrows. Or you can share a post by tapping the three dots and you can share it via facebook, pintrest, email, etc.
  • The search icon next to the home is where you can look up other users; you can search for friends or you can just search for anyone that may blog about things you enjoy. You can type just about anything into the search bar and find people to follow.


  • It will also give you recommendations of what to follow; if you want to follow that page you can just click the follow button.
  • The lightning bolt icon is where you can see your notifications. People can tag you, reblog your post, or even comment on something.


  • The person icon next to the lightning bolt is your account information; here you can see your likes, who you’re following, your settings, and your blog information. There is also a place where you can start a new blog which is like a subaccount.


  • To post a blog you can select the big blue circle with a pencil on the main page.

What is included in the personal profile?

  • To look at your own personal profile you can go to the person icon, click your picture and username. It will bring you to your profile and you can see what everyone else can see.
  • You can edit your user name, background, profile picture, etc. It will also show things that you have posted or shared.


  • The big blue circle with the pencil is where you can post your own personal blog.
  • Top right hand corner is where you can edit your profile.
  • The person icon to the left of it is where you can see your followers, messages, search for other blogs, view linked accounts if you have any, etc.


What are the privacy options?

  • There are not many privacy options on Tumblr.
  • You are unable to make your main blog private.
  • In order to post a blog that only you can read; you must make a secondary blog account.
    • To make a secondary blog, you go to the person icon at the top right.
    • Tap the “create new blog link.”


  • These secondary blogs are unable to follow other blogs, talk to other users, like or post other blogs.
  • Other privacy information Tumblr offers are under the person icon. Select “Settings,” then select privacy policy.
  • In this section Tumblr just explains why they use your email, username, password, and age (such as using your email to send you updates about the app or site). They note that this information is kept confidential from third parties,


How long has it been around and how popular is it?

  • Tumblr has been around since November, 2007.
  • It is estimated that there are about 30 million users and possibly more.
  • Popular amongst teens and young adults.

What are the risks for use?

Cyberbully potential:

  • Due to the confessional-type nature of many entries, Tumblr users are extremely vulnerable to trollish and cyberbullying comments.

Inappropriate content potential:

  • Social media sometimes provides groups to make teenagers feel like they “belong.” However these groups can be dangerous.
    • Cutting: Those who may have depression and depend on self harm can reach out to others who also cut and share stories/pictures of their experiences, which can lead to more cutting and other “ways” of doing it.blog66image16
    • Sexualized Content: Due to all ages being on the internet, parents should be aware of the sexualized images that are available through Tumblr.blog66image17 blog66image18
    • Eating Disorders: People tend to use their blogs on social media sites to share their stories and/or pictures of their struggles with eating disorders. This content may give others advice or help on how to become anorexic or bulimic.blog66image20 blog66image19
    • Drug Use: Blogs may be used to “brag” or talk about drug use, making it seem like a cool thing to do.

blog66image22 blog66image21

Making poor decisions:

  • Teens long to form private, creative communities and Tumblr is the perfect place to do that. As with all social media apps, Tumblr can be prosocial or destructive. Therefore if you teen wants Tumblr, I suggest that you continue to nurture a warm, collaborative relationship so they can come to you if they run across anything uncomfortable. And for young teens, definitely monitor content.

Due to the intimate and dangerous content often shared on Tumblr, I recommend this is a GKIS yellow-light app (with monitoring only). Kids are being introduced to topics that they may not be mature enough to handle (is anybody?) and are also vulnerable to cyberbullying. More scary to me is the opportunity that online sex offenders have for learning intimate details about children, such as special interests and personal identifying information. Tumblr is tantamount to confessional YouTube channels and social networking sites like Twitter. Do you have any stories to share about Tumblr? Please share them below!

11755355_1062290680448181_4814698546326661932_nThank you to CSUCI student Adrienne Roy-Gasper for co-authoring this article.



I’m the mom psychologist who will help you GetKidsInternetSafe.

Onward to More Awesome Parenting,

Tracy S. Bennett, Ph.D.
Mom, Clinical Psychologist, CSUCI Adjunct Faculty

Photo credit:

Tumblr by Scott Beale, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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Dr. Tracy Bennett