Tumblr & Teens

Keeping track of what is ‘hip’ with teens in 2012 is important to parents.  It is important to make sure that children are safe online, especially when using social networking sites.  Just within the past few months I have heard my students increasingly talking about a social networking site that has been gaining popularity amongst teens called Tumblr.


Tumblr is a social networking site that uses a shorter style of blogging in order to communicate with followers.  It is easily described as a combination between Twitter and Facebook.  Users share posts of text, photos, links, quotes, audio, or video and add it to their “Tumblog”.  The Tumblog is their main page for Tumblr.  The interactive nature of the site encourages others to “reblog”, or copy their favorite posts from other users, on their own Tumblog dashboard for their followers to see. This website has become very popular with teens because of its interactive nature.


It is reported that the majority of users of this site are in their teens and early 20’s.  From speaking with several teenagers about this social networking site, it is gaining popularity because it is easy to use and allows them to interact with their friends in a more artistic way because it is much easier to post media like photos, video, and audio clips.  After trying it out myself, it is very intuitive and easy to use.  The only downside I have seen is that you cannot upload photos when using an iPad.

After looking through Tumblr, I can see that this site is definitely easier to use than other blogging programs.  I can quickly find individuals to follow using the Spotlight Blogs section based on the spotlight categories and by connecting with individuals that I already know.   It was very seamless to setup my own Tumblog and I was able to get my first post up within minutes of using the program.  Within 5 minutes I was up and running fully on Tumblr.


However, there are definitely drawbacks to Tumblr.  One of my concerns, especially for teenagers using this program, is that because of the nature of the website, many individuals do not use the privacy settings that are offered.  This means that many users choose to make their posts public so that other individuals can reblog their posts.  Unlike Facebook or Twitter, users typically create handles that do not include their real name.  This allows a certain level of anonymity even if the blog posts are public.

Lack of the privacy controls then allows users to possibly become “Tumblr Famous”, or a Tumblr user who has over 1,000 individuals following their blog.  Sometimes Tumblr Famous individuals have insightful written or artistic posts (photos, film, paintings), but there are many others who are not positive role models for teens and may post questionable material.  However, one of the main draws for teens to this program is because they want to earn this popularity status.  Since some individuals have scored book deals, gain enough popularity to sell their art, or have become comedians. Teens view that using Tumblr is one way to become famous in real life.

Encourage your teen to setup the privacy settings within Tumblr and to only follow and share information with individuals they know in real life.  They can also block individuals that they do not want be able to request to follow their blog.  This does limit some of the functionality of the program, however, it is a safer option for use of this program especially for younger teens.

Bottom Line

There are many positives about Tumblr.  It is a great blogging format that makes it easy to post a variety of digital media.  It can encourage teens to write and share their art with others. However, parents should be aware of this popular online program to ensure that their teenagers are using the program in an appropriate manner. This includes being involved in what their children are posting, reposting, individuals they are following, and that they are comfortable with the levels of privacy settings that their child is using online.

Article By Laura Ketcham-VanHellemont

Picture By buyalex

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