Is Tumblr Safe?

Words by
Abby Alger

AUG 29, 2023

Is Tumblr Safe?

Children can be exposed to inappropriate material on Tumblr even with Safety Mode turned on. Tumblr has no private mode, which allows strangers to comment and privately to talk to your child in a chatroom or a DM (direct message). 

What is Tumblr?

Tumblr is a microblogging social media networking site where users can post short-form personal blogs and follow others’ blogs. Tumblr, a subsidiary of Verizon, makes a profit through targeted advertisements that are customized using a users’ personal information.

Microblogs are short written posts that can include photographs, videos, audio clips, GIFs (animated or static images), and infographics (visual charts or diagrams).

Kids are drawn to its creative elements beyond a typical blog, such as creating a collage of photos, videos and/or quotes that represent themselves. 

Is Tumblr safe for a 12 year old?

While Tumblr’s terms of service recommend the app for people 17+, users as young as 13 years old (or those who claim to be 13+) can join. However, this doesn’t mean Tumblr is actually safe for users that young.

mother and daughter looking at tech together

Is Tumblr Safe for My Child?

Tumblr contains explicit adult content that is not safe for kids. While search terms such as “porn” and “suicide” have been banned, users come up with alternative spellings and words such as “p0rn”, an0rex1c” (anorexic), or “unalive.”

Like other social media sites, Tumblr provides a platform for eating disorder cultures. Some users have found the algorithms push pro eating disorder content.

One anonymous user still had “explicit pornographic fan art of underage teens” recommended in their feed
Tumblr has been known to allow Nazism and White Supremacy posts despite claiming they do not allow hate speech. The searches “Defend Europe” and “Hitler was right” populates numerous pieces of content with racist and homophobic language.

While some of these images are taken down from Tumblr, others remain up at the time of publishing.

Tumblr users have reported inappropriate content for years while Tumblr turned a blind eye. 

One user shared his experience reporting inappropriate content, “Tumblr would rarely respond.” If someone did, “they’d say they didn’t see anything wrong with it… Overall, the experience was just a hassle and not at all effective.” 

Tumblr accounts cannot be private

All posts default to public, and there is no way to make an account private. There are work-arounds, such as making a secondary password-protected blog or changing all blog posts to private and hiding all posts, but it’s a cumbersome process. This allows all users to view, share, or comment on your child’s posts. 

One 16 year old girl could not stop sexualized comments being made on her photos. “I would straight-up tell people I was 16 years old and people literally didn’t care,”

Predators can DM (direct message) children privately, pretend to be a person their age and groom them—gaining their trust before asking them for a sext or inappropriate videos of themselves. 

Tumblrs’ Safe Mode

While Tumblr has offered Safe Mode since 2017, this feature only hides inappropriate posts through a content filter and are easily circumvented. 

There are even blogs teaching kids how to bypass safe mode, including lying about your age and using third party websites such as Tumbex to see all Tumblr content even if you don’t have an account. 

There are presently no parental controls available for adolescent accounts on Tumblr.

In the first year of Safe Mode’s release, Tumblr was removed from the Apple App Store because it failed to filter out child pornography. It was reinstated after banning all sexually explicit content in 2018, but has reversed that ban and since 2022 again allows nude content.

How Kids Get Around Tumblrs’ Safe Mode

  1. Create an Adult Account and turn off Safe Mode
    Kids can start an account and claim they are over 18 (no real verification of age is required). Safe Mode can then be turned off following one of many tutorials online. 
  1. Use a Proxy app to access unfiltered Tumblr
    Sites such as GramUnion and TumblViewr offer unrestricted Tumblr access.
mother trying to comfort sad daughter

What Parents Can Do

Parents can choose to delay or deny their children access to Tumblr. If your child is ready for the connection that a personal device brings but not yet ready for the risks of social media, including Tumblr, you might consider kid-safe devices like Gabb phones.

Many parents find education and open conversation to be key tools to raising kids today. You can talk to your child about the benefits and dangers of Tumblr. Ask them what they know about the app and if they think it is safe. Listen to their responses.

However, if an adolescent is determined to join the app they can create a secret account on a friend’s device. Open conversations are key here to help them become aware of the reasons why Tumblr can be unsafe and how to avoid common pitfalls.

Let your kids know if they get in trouble online, they can always come to you for help without fearing anger.

If your child is already on Tumblr and you’re comfortable with that, have open and regular conversations about their interactions there. 

  • Know what they are searching for, viewing, and sharing.
  • Just as you want to know their friends in real life, ask who they are talking to online. 
  • Teach them to avoid talking to strangers online and what catfishing is. Discuss grooming and how to see the signs
  • Help them understand digital permanency—anything they post online can be saved or screenshotted and shared even after they take it down.
  • Discuss what pornograpy is in an age-appropriate way and what to do if they see something that makes them uncomfortable.
  • Discuss cyberbullying, healthy communication habits, and how to report it.

Consider creating an online tech plan with your child. Help your kids understand they will not be yelled at if they come to you with information about inappropriate interactions they may have had online. This will help them feel safe coming to you for help.

If your child has been the victim of cyberbullying or sexual exploitation, document everything and immediately report it to authorities.

Do you think Tumblr is safe for kids? Let us know in the comments!

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