Tumblr – Why Kids Love It and What Parents Need To Know

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Maybe you’ve heard your teen talking about something called Tumblr. Or perhaps you’ve seen it on the Internet somewhere and always wondered what it is. Aside of its increasing popularity among the younger crowd, there’s really only one reason why you might want to consider blocking Tumblr on your home computer, or at the very least having a conversation with your child/teen about why they should wait until they’re older before signing up for an account.

In contrast to other blogging platforms like WordPress, Typepad or Blogger, Tumblr is a streamlined blogging platform that adds a unique creative element to creating and sharing (“re-blogging”) photo, video and audio blog posts. Of course, users can post traditional blog articles, but what attracts the younger crowd is the ability to create somewhat of a collage of photos, videos and quotes that represent their individuality. As many Tumblr users will tell you, this can be a great way for anyone to express their creativity and interests. Why did I italicize “anyone”? Well, because just like with Facebook both adults and children can join the Tumblr community, and just like on Facebook the inappropriate content isn’t necessarily promoted, but it’s there if you (or better yet your children) want to find it.

On the safety side of things Tumblr keeps things simple. The only information they ask of you during sign up is what’s shown in the screenshot above. However, as soon as you hit start you’re asked to type in your age, and if you type in anything below 13 Tumblr rejects your registration. This means, and as Tumblr’s Terms of Service makes clear, children 12 and under are not allowed on Tumblr.

If cyberbullying or any kind of online harassment becomes an issue, Tumblr makes it easy to report and block a specific user and/or their Tumblr blog.

What Parents Need to Know –

In a lot of ways Tumblr is an online collection of contemporary culture. Users can follow Tumblr blogs of celebrities, architects, fashion designers and professional athletes, among many others. And because of Tumblr’s compilation style of blogging, you can literally find anything from art and crafts ideas to hardcore porn, and equally as easy.


All of that being said, finding pornography on Tumblr is no different than finding it on Twitter or Facebook. A simple tag search for “porn”, “sex” or “adult” results in a stream of pornographic images and video that any Tumblr user can see and share.

Despite it being a creative outlet for young minds, the fact remains that Tumblr is not for children. Websites like Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr can only go as far as requesting their age during registration; it’s in your hands to educate your child about following the rules, whether it’s in school, on the soccer field or online.

I can hear a child saying: “Dad, I don’t use Tumblr for all these things you’re worried about. My friends and I don’t go looking for that stuff you mentioned. Don’t worry so much!”  Don’t fall prey to these comments. The fact of the matter is, Tumblr, like many websites, blog platforms and social networks, does not have the content filters or oversight in place to ensure a healthy experience for your child.

For your teens, it might help to create a dialogue about their activity on Tumblr – find out what they post, who they follow, and if necessary, create an account of your own and follow them. Let them know you know what kind of content is available to them in the Tumblr community and how inappropriate content, regardless of where it’s coming from, can often times lead to malicious applications and computer viruses. If you feel that blocking Tumblr altogether is necessary in your home, there are several options available to you:

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  • I totally agree I use WordPress and it’s so much better than Tumblr. I would suggest that Tumblr should be 17+ to join. I even have some WordPress friends! I don’t think anyone innocent should use Tumblr. Nor anyone under 17.

  • I get the feeling none of you actually use tumblr. Tumblr users are extremely sensitive to homophobia, sexism, racism, self harm, or suicide. Most users are extremely supporting if anything like that comes up (obviously not every one, but the website as a whole.) The pornography isn’t a problem if you’re mature enough not to go looking for it, and if you’re thirteen, like the terms require, I beleive you are mature enough.

  • If you’re worried about you/your child seeing certain stuff, then install Tumblr Saviour and block said stuff. It’s free and easy to use 🙂

  • There is a 16 yr old on tumblr who is involved with a guy who looks 30 & I know is old enough to be her father. She calls him “daddy” and put up sexual things & puts she wants daddy do this to me & her likes it or comments. I reported it to tumblr, don’t think they care. What can I do?

    • Leave her alone. What seems like “doing the right thing” on the surface can have serious effects on peoples lives. Chances are, she isn’t as young and naive as she comes off; daddykink is just that, a KINK. She may play the part of a little girl, and that may strike you as odd, but chances are their relationship is much healthier than most. Leave it alone, don’t go poking your nose into things you don’t understand.

      • Matt: There is a lot of disturbing stuff on tumblr, the mods are really lax. It’s worth reporting things when a minor seems to be in danger though.

        Cameron: How do you know that this person weren’t actually 16?
        And no,dd/lg when a man pretends he is dominating and having sex with his own child isn’t healthy. At all.

        • DD/LG is VERY rarely father and daughter roleplay. My boyfriend is technically also my Daddy (I’m a guy, 19 at this point) and our relationship has never crossed into any kind of parent/child style roleplay.

          I do know, however, that he’s managed to take me out of a very unhealthy place since I met him. (Short story of my childhood and adolescence includes a lot of drug trafficking and prostitution to pay for my own health bills, whatever.)

          Yes, I understand that this isn’t “technically” a conventional relationship and I understand that in certain areas of the world and US she is classified as underage, but for gods sake if someone had called the cops on me if I had been underage because they thought my relationship was unconventional, I would be dead.

          Not “whiny internet teenager commits suicide because they’re a dumbass”, I would have gone by ways of alcohol, drugs, rape or gang violence. How cushy and uncomplicated does your life have to be that you choose to pick battles over something as small as how someone chooses to interact emotionally and sexually with others, no matter their age?

          So no, she’s probably 16, and she’s probably in a relationship with an older guy, but there are bigger things all of you have to worry about. She’ll be okay. Chances are if they don’t have a strong connection, they’ll split up later and leave it at that.
          Leave. It. Alone.

          • Actually, something short I’ll add about the age difference is this:

            The guy in this relationship, let’s call him John, KNOWS what he’s doing is (in many places) illegal.
            All she has to do to protect herself is tell a person of authority what’s going on with John and they’re up his ass like a gerbil in a hefty bag.
            If she felt threatened to the point where she’d appreciate someone on the internet stepping in to help her out of such an “unhealthy and deeply oversexualized relationship”, chances are she’d already have gone to someone about it.

            Adults have this funny thing where they automatically assume everything they teach you in health class is true. Examples include “Men rape women, sex is wrong and smoking will undoubtedly and inevitably kill you in a very eventful show of cancer and family tragedy.”

            The thing is, if a guy threatens to rape/kill/harm you, generally you’re able to put aside the stereotypical teenagerly thoughts of “but I love him” and call the damn cops. I know this from experience. Any time in my life where I’d appreciate someone stepping in to “save me”, I was already in witness protection or otherwise in a safe place with some adult authority figure keeping me there.

            Just saying.

    • Report it to NCMEC hotline. Do not delete the account and have as much information as possible about the person of interest. They can delegate it to a law enforcement agency and further investigate. There information follows:

  • I am 13 years old and am thinking of joining tumblr. I am very conscious of the fact that every site on the Internet (specifically social networking) has dangers, and so I decided to read up on tumblr and learn more about it to see if it was the right choice. I found this article very helpful and also interesting, especially to see opinions coming from people close to my age and also from parents. However, to me, one point seems to stand out. This being the whole argument about the easy access to porn and self harm on tumblr. To some extent, I agree. I am aware that these things, especially the self harm, are quite common on tumblr and easy to find. But I also know that it is also incredibly easy, if not more so, to find these things on google, and you do not see many parents blocking that site from their children. Just like google, tumblr also has some incredibly motivating and lighthearted posts and blogs, which can help young people struggling with something who may find it difficult to speak about it to someone in real life. I think that if your child or teen has tumblr, or is thinking of joining the site, instead of focusing on the negatives and not letting them get it, it might be a good idea to just discuss with them what is appropriate or what isn’t and that they can come to you for anything, and do not need to feel that they are unable to talk to you about their problems and instead go to some person that they have never met. Of course every person is different, and parents should take into consideration the maturity of their children, but I thought I would just share my opinion.

    Thank you for the article as well. 🙂

  • A late perspective:

    We are all guinea pigs of the technological age. It affects us intimately in ways that can be described as harmful and helpful, and many combinations of both. The variables of influence from dislocated (virtual) information are too vast to measure and therefore to vast to truly access beyond our own personal experiences. But opinions will form, and I have my own.

    I don’t think pornography (i.e. the superficial, reactionary and monetary-oriented movement involving a stylized and homogenized vision of human sexuality) is ever purely healthy, nor can I see the moral ‘rules’ and lines we have made so radically different between the ‘real’ world and the virtual world as anything but socially contradictory and potentially confusing (especially to a mind that is still freshly developing a sense of what is real to begin with). There is little responsibility, much ignorant arrogance and proud disrespect in these waters. Parental responsibility is often used as a banner or shield in discussions, but it fails utterly as a critical argument because of the selfish nature behind it; no parent can possible be responsible enough to shelter his/her child from the torrential advance of these technologies and not risk abuse themselves. And how many irresponsible parents are out there? Should we naively trust that their children will not harm others in some part due to their lack of responsibility or simple ignorance? The issue is not as socially simple or conveniently placed as many would like it to be.

    I do understand how commiseration can seem to be beneficial for the sense of comfort, control and validation it may bring; but beneficial as a kind of spiritual band-aid which draws attention to a fundamentally diseased aspect of our species. We are social animals but ‘no one ever said’ we were particularly good at being social. I think the internet as a whole, regardless of what many find in it to praise, is an exceedingly dangerous environment for both children and adults. But it is here for now, and we will be affected.

  • while i can see the authors point of view on tumblr the thing is tumblr is more than just porn and self-harm. in fact just recently, tumblr updated their policy to include the deletion of blogs that advocate self harm, also, pornography blogs must be flagged as ‘nsfw’.
    however, tumblr is a great place to make new friends and express oneself. the fact that people are complaining about their kids finding porn or self harm advocates because of tumblr is simply dumb. porn and pro-self harm sites are incredibly easy to find. all you have to do is type it into google.
    so instead of telling your kids to not go on tumblr (because telling them not to may only make them want to go on it even more) why dont you sit down and talk to your kids. let them know that they can come to you for anything. tell them that you dont think that they are mature enough to look at pornography and more importantly, listen to what they have to say. as a tumblr user myself, it breaks my heart to know that teens would much rather go to someone on the internet to talk about their propblems rather than talk to their own family. tumblr can be a safe experience if you would only give it a chance. because in all actuality, tumblr is no different than any other social networking site.

  • I want everyone to understand that the effects of reading endless posts about self-harming and eating disorders, regardless of what seems to be a supportive, positive, helpful, empathetic approach, is NOT healthy for a very young person, and can actually have the opposite intended effect! After awhile, the behaviors are PERCEIVED as being normalized, and there can be a need for connection, sympathy, attention from well-meaning people that is very enticing and seductive to a young person who is not able to discern boundaries and limitations. Please keep in mind that few (maybe NONE?) of the tumblr users are trained professionals! Tumblr posts and photos can be very triggering for individuals who are vulnerable, curious or emotionally unstable (or simply too young). Please parents, don’t be swayed. No one under 17 or 18 has any business being on it! Find your children healthier outlets!

    • OMG!!! COULD NOT AGREE MORE!!!!! Recently have found many disturbing things my 12 year old has seen and reblogged. NOT A HAPPY MOTHER!!! AND let me just say I practically know what color underware my kids wear and THIS I MISSED!!!!

      Never thought I would be THAT PARENT with a depressed 12 year old.

      Concerned momma—-

      • What the hell is ‘THAT PARENT with a depressed 12 year old’ supposed to mean?!
        You should be supporting your child not posting about their issues online for all to see, I’m talking from a childs p.o.v I suffered badly from depression from the age of 13 and I still do to this day, I am currently 17, I myself had a Tumblr account at 13 but I can tell you Tumblr does no condone or influence self harm or any kind of physical or mental harm in anyway. If you were to type into the search bar ‘self harm’ or ‘depression’ before taking you directly to the results a message would pop onto your screen linking you to a self harm help website.
        So before you post about your childs private life and quickly blame the website they are using take a look closer to home, you’re clearly not doing enough to support and help her and resent that you are ‘that parent with the depressed 12 year old.

      • I agree with Emma, you shouldn’t be posting about your kids issues. And what’s with this “THAT parent with a depressed 12 year old” your kid doesn’t want to be “THAT kid with depression” they don’t want to be depressed at all. I know I didn’t want to be that kid. So get them into therapy and maybe on some anti depressants, and don’t blame a website for your shitty parenting

  • Would you leave your front door open and invite strangers into your house to look at your photographs, see what your family looks like, and read your personal diary? Because that’s what tumblr is.

  • Before more parents go and decide they want their teen to get rid of their tumblr, I’d like to say a few things.
    Tumblr has various communities everyone identifies themselves in. It’s much like an everyday public high school; with Geeks, Nerds, Hipsters, Goths, Photographers/Artists, etc.
    As for porn, Tumblr has changed your tag to “lol” if you type in “porn”, “xxx”, or whatever generic term there is for finding it. It is in fact, very easy to find through tags but depending on who you follow and what you use tumblr for you don’t see it unless you try to find it.
    Now, for Self-Harming, suicide, depression; if you were to look up “Suicide” “depression” or “Self harm” tags and such on tumblr, the website automatically comes up with a note saying “If you or someone you know is dealing with an eating disorder, self harm issues, or suicidal thoughts, please visit our Counseling & Prevention Resources page for a list of services that may be able to help.” Under it, it has a button saying “Tell Me More” that can redirect the user to the Counseling and Prevention Resources page with reassuring words.

    Recap: Tumblr is JUST like a high school. If you don’t want your teen to have a tumblr, you might as well take them out of school. (If they are already home schooled, don’t even touch their tumblr.) Tumblr is a site for displaying creativity and expressing who you are; especially when no one else offline will listen. (Seriously, there is nothing like expressing how you feel to your online best friend from across the globe.)
    I have been a Tumblr user for almost a year; this is no doubt the best website for a teen such as myself to escape to from the pressures of every day life.


  • Let me inform those unaware- In terms of the community on tumblr I have had the pleasure of witnessing the most supportive group of people for issues with mental health, physical health and self harm. It’s easy to find pornographic material but its just as easy to find wonderfully positive influences and kind people. Just like anywhere in the world. For some, this is the only place they can find supportive friends and helpful people who have direct experience with what they go through. Educate your child, let them know about ways to block negative content for their own safety, look into tag blocking engines.

    • I’m glad to here that you’ve had a positive experience on Tumblr. I personally think Tumblr is a great way to connect with others through content sharing. Can you share more details about tag blocking engines?

    • Tag blocking engines? Really? I think you meant tag blocking. There a literally thousands of tags out there that are inappropriate. How many parents have the time to screw around with that? Here’s what the tumblr staff just recently said about these issues. After you read it, go on Tumblr and see if they really practice what they preach.. I did and that’s why Tumblr is now blocked on all my on line devices.

      Parents: get yourself a Linksys EA3500, EA4500 or one of their other routers and block it. It has very easy to use interface that lets you set time limits on any device connected to the internet as well as blocking specific sites.

      Not only is their a huge amount of crap on Tumblr, kids are spending way too much time wandering through it instead of interacting on a personal level and doing something truly fun or constructive.

      • It’s funny how people who are uneducated about this site and what it can do are the ones who wish to censor it.
        I understand if you want to look out for your children, however there is a very simple, easy-to-install application/script called “Tumblr Saviour”. You just pop in what tags you do not wish your teen to see (children shouldn’t be on the site anyway), and there you go. And no, it doesn’t take as much time as you seem to think. I’ve been using tumblr for years now and I’ve only ever had to type in most of the blacklisted tags once, and it’s never been a bother since.
        Also, “too much time wandering through it instead of interacting on a personal level”, I don’t think you realise just how much people connect with each other over tumblr. When people blog, there are sharing a part of themselves. Even if it seems like someone is sharing a silly picture, that is them showing something they find funny, and you then find people that share your sense of humour, interests and what not. This can form into strong friendships online, and some of the most supporting people I’ve ever met have been followers on my blogs.
        Just because you think it’s crap doesn’t mean you should force your opinion onto other people. If they enjoy the experience, then let them enjoy it. Restricting a teen isn’t going to win you any favours.

      • Hi Bob, Tumblr is an outlet for people my age to express their opinions, talk to other people who share their interests and have a friendly support system if they’re having trouble at home/school or have depression of some sort. I made a tumblr when I was 12 years old, and yes, it did expose me to bad things, but I was very depressed and searching for it myself, and it was all easily accessible from any website, not just Tumblr. I am now 15, and have matured a lot and I have made so many great friends on Tumblr. I can express my creativy, my interests and hobbies on it. My mum made me delete mine a while ago and I was heartbroken. If you want your child to trust you and talk to you then you need to talk to him/her about the dangers of tumblr, when you think they will be responsible enough to have one, and let them know they can talk to you about stuff. Otherwise they’ll be sneaking around and keeping stuff from you. If you’re that concerned maybe ask if you can see what they’re blogging about.. Tumblr calms me down and I can talk to people and I feel truly sorry for your children if you really have blocked it because they’re using it.

  • Honestly if a child wants to view inappropriate images then they can easily do that by typing it in on Google. If a parent doesn’t like the graphic content, ok, then block the site. It’s not meant for your innocent children anyway. There’s a TON of graphic content on it. But personally, I love the site! I’m 19, not easily offended by graphic images, and love how Tumblr is so creative and has so many different diverse personalities.

    • What’s so creative about posting random photos?

      In my opinion, Tumblr makes excuses for what 90% of parents would consider inappropriate and even deviant behavior.

      • You obviously don’t know what it’s like to be a kid do you bob like most of the kids on tumbler they use it to get away from the world and interactions with other people it is a way of expressing what you like and how you feel so don’t say things about tumbler if you don’t know it from the perspective of the users

  • Tumblr is filled with porn. All you have to do is type in sex or BDSM into the search terms and the most graphic sexual acts are displayed in pictures and GIF action photos. There is absolutely no filter. You can block sites, if you know their name, but cannot block your children or teenagers from typing in the search results and being returned the shocking results. I’ve complained to Tumblr, but it is their policy “anything goes.” It’s sad, because visually and usage, it’s a great site.

    • Recently Yahoo has bought Tumblr and since then none of those pornographic tags have been available. If you want a truly explicit site, look at Instagram for example. All you have to do is look up “sultry” and it comes up with an abundance of videos and photos of pornography.

      • The claim that porn is being blocked since Yahoo bought tumblr (if they have) is absolutely bogus. Some of the porn available to youngsters on tumblr is as raunchy as it gets, and should in no way be available on ANY site that also allows children to have access.

        Allowing your children to create and use a tumblr account is no different than allowing them to go out with a crowd that includes a bunch of sexual perverts/deviants in it. The possibility of children being exposed to and corrupted by the porn available on tumblr, way outweighs the possible positive effects it may have on them.

        Tumblr has been blocked on all three computer I own. My grandkids will no longer be allowed to visit the tumblr communities. Remove the ability to post porn related content, and I might consider removing the block for them.

        • Something I find hilarious through all of this is the parent’s ineffectiveness at keeping their damn spawn off sites that they think expose the damn things to porn in the first place.

          I keep seeing comments like “how do I block this, how do I control my kids, whine whine whine” and almost every time it sounds like parents are scared of their kids getting mad at them.

          I hate to be the guy that says “back in my day”, I’m only 18, but if my dad didn’t want me doing something and I kept repeatedly doing it, he wouldn’t try to sneak behind me and find internet blockers or take my TV privileges (to be read with heavy intonations of sarcasm and disgust towards today’s incompetent parents,) He’d tell me not to once and if I did it again, I was on the streets for the night.

          I don’t suggest you leave your children homeless, if they resort to prostitution for a place to spend the night like I did you’re gonna have a hell of a time explaining that one to CPS.

          Still though, you gotta remember that they aren’t in charge. They might hate you for taking away their phones, but they’re little shits anyway and will inevitably worm their way into something else to occupy their lizard brains.

          It’s not about how much they like you, it’s about keeping them out of the shit that’s affecting their health. Think “sensory deprivation” and work your way back to something a little more… kid-friendly. Take their shit. Keep ’em inside. They’ll hate you for a bit but they’ll get over themselves eventually.

          If you don’t want your kids to be exposed to the “horrors of the internet”, don’t give them the chance to be exposed to the internet. Simple as that.

  • I’d also like to point out that Tumblr is popular for people that practice self-harm, such as cutting and eating disorders. If your child gets a Tumblr, they could be easily influenced by this. Seriously, search up the tag ‘pro-ana’ on Tumblr, millions of results come up.

    • It’s not like your kid will start cutting. Tumblr is more for support than to influence others. If kids know that someone cares, they will be getting support and eventually stop. 🙂

      • Actually I beg to differ. I have seen first-hand how Tumblr has encouraged my daughter to practice both cutting and eating disorder behaviors. Sure it’s *possible* she might have found these things otherwise, but Tumblr blogs often present these as a cool club that impressionable teens, searching for their identities and ways to deal with inevitable teenage hormones and angst, can join and not feel so alone. When I was a teenager, no one I knew had ever even heard of cutting, not even my loner, loser, artsy, depressed friends. Now every kid knows someone who does it, and most of those kids bond on Tumblr. IT IS A HUGE PROBLEM.

        • Actually, any blogs promoting self harm and eating disorders are very much against tumblr’s Terms of Service. If you are aware of any of these blogs that have influenced your daughter, you should report them to the staff immediatly.
          There will always be this type of group of people regardless of whatever site she goes on if this is how she is seeking out in dealing with her problems. You should try to understand why she feels the way she feels and find a healthy, positive way to try to help her overcome these problems.
          On tumblr, you’re only ever surrounded by people that you willingly choose to follow which you’d find in tags you’d willingly seek out. I think you should really take the time to understand and talk with your daughter because of this.
          I wish you both all the best, I really do. It’s not easy for people who struggle through these problems.

        • As a self-harmer (NOT “because of the internet”), I frequent the self-harm side of tumblr, and let me tell you, no one wants people to start. No one thinks it’s ‘cool’. There are posts after posts begging people not to start because of how hard it is to stop the addiction. There are many posts on alternatives to self-harm, people celebrating how long they’ve been clean, people asking others to help them not self-harm. It’s not a ‘cool club’ for people to join, it’s a place for mutual support between people who already self-harm.

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