Tumblr is a website and app that says it “lets you effortlessly share anything” and that includes texts, videos, photos, links, you name it. The wide range of content is part of what makes Tumblr unique. It is a cross between a social network and a microblogging site.
Here’s what parents need to know about Tumblr:
* The App Store says “You must be at least 17 years old to download this app.” That is in part because user may encounter “Frequent/Intense Sexual Content or Nudity.”
* Despite the age requirement for the app, tweens and teens love using Tumblr on their phones. More than a quarter of teens said they used Tumblr on a mobile device, according to an October 2013 survey from the nonprofit Family Online Safety Institute.
* To use the Tumblr website, however, the age requirement is only 13. I do love their statement of the rule:
“You have to be at least 13 years old to use Tumblr. We’re serious: it’s a hard rule, based on U.S. federal and state legislation. ‘But I’m, like, 12.9 years old!’ you plead. Nope, sorry. If you’re younger than 13, don’t use Tumblr. Ask your parents for a Playstation 4, or try books.”
* Tumblr says it has more than 195 million blogs and 83 billion posts. That’s a lot of people and a whole lot of sharing. Like anything else on the internet, there is both good and bad.
* Common Sense Media says “[p]ornographic images and video, depictions of violence and drug use, and offensive language are easy to find,” and rates it as most appropriate for those ages 15 and older. They go on to say that Tumblr “promises good, naughty fun for the under-30 crowd, but parents should think twice about letting minors join.” That porn is readily available is one of the biggest parental concerns about the site.
* Privacy settings on Tumblr are tricky. Primary Tumblr accounts are all public. Outsiders can easily comment on posts and send direct messages to users. An account cannot be made private unless a user creates a second blog on Tumblr under a second name. McAfee explains how to do so here. Still, the idea of needing two accounts to keep things private doesn’t sit well with me.
* Users can make specific posts (not the account) private by selecting “private” in the “publish now” menu.
* Tumblr has an “ignore” function that makes it so that select users cannot see your posts on their Dashboard, a function kids should be aware of.
* Kids are flocking to Tumblr because their parents are not there. If your kids are on Tumblr, you should be there, too. It may not be intuitive or easy or make any sense to you. Do it anyway. Ask your kid to help you set up your account even. That gives you a chance to open up a dialogue about why they like it, how they’re using it, the privacy issues, etc.
* As with anything online, parents should encourage kids to T.H.I.N.K. before they post. Actually, don’t just encourage, insist that they do.
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