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What should parents know about Tumblr?

Topics: Social Media

Tumblr is an unending streaming scrapbook of text, photos, videos, and audio clips. It pioneered the vibrant, graphic-rich, full-screen design that kids love (which is one reason Yahoo bought it for $1.1 billion 2013). And -- with more than a million blogs -- it remains one of the most popular places on the Web for creative types to design original pages, share cool things they discover, and follow others with similar interests. On Tumblr, the goal of many users is to be "reblogged" (as opposed to racking up likes, as with Instagram), which makes the service feel like a creative community bonded by shared interests -- and not a popularity contest.

Tumblr is unique because of the wide variety of content that users can post from their phones or computers. Not only can they text and post photos, they also can offer up quotes, links, music, voice messages, and videos. It all shows up on a member's page along with a stream of posts from people they're following. This ability to post instantaneously can be a risk for impulsive teens (or any teens, really), so if your kid likes Tumblr, it's a good idea to talk about thinking before you post.

The key concerns for parents are privacy and inappropriate content. Tumblr posts are public by default. Users also don't have to use their real names (in fact, Tumblr will assign you an interesting username if you don't create one yourself), so you can stay fairly anonymous. On the Web version, you can prevent people from finding you through your email address, but the app version doesn't offer that setting.

Plus, in all of Tumblr's creative self-expression, it's easy to find both mature content (which you can't filter) and "native advertising" -- ads designed to look like regular content.

As with any social-networking site, it's important to talk to your kids about what's OK to post and what should remain private. Also discuss what you can do if someone posts something inappropriate (for example, reporting that person for violating Tumblr's terms of service). And help your kid develop media-literacy skills by noticing how advertisers use a site's signature style to bury their messages.

Get more tips on how to use Tumblr safely and responsibly.

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