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TUMBLR: What Parents Need To Know

twitter_256Lots of young females like Tumblr, the “superblog” platform.  In fact, recent Pew Research indicates that 23% of teen girls use Tumblr compared to only 5% of boys. It’s popular because very easy to set up your own blog and add content. Plus, it is easy to find other people’s content on their blogs and add their content to your blog. It has social features such as “liking” and “following”. Tumblr is a well-designed platform for expressing yourself.

But, there are things parents need to know….

There is adult content on Tumblr…a LOT of it! It is estimated that nearly 17% of all Tumblr traffic is adult-related, and one market research firm determined that 1/6 of all of the blogs on Tumblr contain adult content: Text, images, videos, and audio.  Considering that there are roughly 293-million hosted blogs on Tumblr, that means there are almost 50-million adult oriented blogs to discover!

With regards to whether Tumblr officials are OK with this adult content, Tumblr’s own FAQ states:

“Sure. We have no problem with that kind of stuff. Go nuts…Whatever.”

That being the case, parents need to understand what can be done to protect their children, and what risks cannot be neutralized.

First off, in order to access adult content you have to be logged into your Tumblr account.  If you are not logged in then your search results will be filtered.  Well, we know how hard it is to create accounts online. So let’s assume your child won’t have a problem doing that.

Once a child is logged in they can access all Tumblr content. The only “parental controls” are these:

  • You can turn on “SAFE SEARCH”.
  • You can flag your own Tumblr blog as having adult content (which is really not much of a “parental control”, is it.)

That’s pretty much it, but it’s better than nothing!

Tumblr’s design for turning on SAFE SEARCH is pretty good on portable devices such as phones and tablets.  In fact, it is not readily apparent that it even exists!  They have hidden it at the bottom of the “REFINE SEARCH” window so that you have to scroll down to reveal it. The advantage here is that you can turn on SAFE SEARCH and (hopefully) the user you are trying to protect won’t know how to undo it. It would be nice to have a 6-digit or 6-character access code to enable you to lock this feature, and which would not be defeated by deleting and re-installing the app or browser.

To turn on SAFE SEARCH on a computer, just login, perform a search, and click on the little padlock icon to close it.  Unfortunately, you have to do this for the account your child is using.


tumblrTumblr apps deserve special attention.  These apps, like the web interface, give SAFE SEARCH a place.  But, they can also partially defeat content filters such as OpenDNS.  This is because the apps are sometimes “hard-wired” for Tumblr’s servers and therefore do not need to do a DNS lookup.  This results in a partial defeat of a DNS-based filter such as OpenDNS.

For instance, if you search for porn videos, you mayget a results page that will have thumbnails that are explicit.  But, when you try to play the video the app may not be able to “fetch” it from its location (usually on a non-Tumblr site, often a porn site).  So, a child could still access text and images/thumbnails even using OpenDNS or a similar service.

Potential Tumblr parental control solutions:

  • Add “” to your filter’s black list of sites to always block.  Don’t use “”, just “”.  This is not guaranteed.  I have found that some filters do just fine and others are so-so.  The built-in filter for iPhones and iPads was the best. While I could start the app, any search I made, for anything, turned up no results on iOS devices.
  • If you a comfortable getting into the firewall settings of your router, you can block these specific IP addresses:
    Keep in mind that these can change with the next update of the app.

As I said, earlier, there is a lot of porn on Tumblr, of all types: Video, images, text/erotica, audio, etc.  And the available material covers the gamut of sexual activities, including that which is abusive and degrading to women and/or men.  Plus, with the ease of creating a new blog, the tumblr-based web sites just keep growing.

Tumblr porn also is more “female-friendly”, especially with the large amount of amateur images and videos being published on the site. (Yes, it seems that your “average American couple” just can’t keep the camera app turned off!”)  This accounts for the increased popularity of Tumblr porn among females 13-35.

In addition to pornography, Tumblr is also known for its popularity with those interested in self-harm and suicide.  For this reason, Tumblr began banning any blog that promote or encourage suicide, self-harm, and eating disorders.  In addition, Tumblr intercepts the results of certain search terms and displays pages referring the user to suicide prevention hotlines and resources.  It then provides the option to continue to the results


I beleive that Tumblr should be completely filtered on all of your networks and devices, and that any Tumblr apps installed on your children’s devices should be inspected for evidence of potential probelms and then deleted.  Remember, if your children use Apple devices you can lock them down so that the kids can’t reinstall apps that you delete, or even install new apps.  (If you are not sure how, check out our video:

How To Lock Down Your Kid’s iPhone – Part I

If you have a child who struggles with depression or eating disorders
(such as bulimia/anorexia) you should be extra vigilant about Tumblr use.  


You might also find these articles helpful:

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