Tumblr. It’s pronounced tumbler…and it’s a website/now app that I hear of weekly in my office. Tumblr is an online blogging platform, and it’s one that many girls (and boys) use regularly. They post photos. They share about their lives, feelings, experiences. Sadly, they even share about their desire or experience with self-harm. Just a month ago, we received a call... from a teenager telling us that she had read on another teenager’s Tumblr that he was having suicidal thoughts.
For many kids, Tumblr gives them a much-needed creative outlet. I counsel one high school girl who is writing her own devotionals and inspirational stories on her Tumblr, for her followers to read. I went on her site to check it out and was inspired myself. But, I am more often hearing stories like the call we received about the suicidal boy.
As with all social media, it is our job to be informed. Ask your son or daughter if he or she has a Tumblr account. If they do, tell them you’d like to read what they’ve been posting…or see their work. If they say you can’t, let that be a red flag. If it’s out there for the world to see, you should be able to see it, as well, as the parent. It’s a good technology rule to have in place. Check their history, as well, to see if they’ve been visiting Tumblr. If they have, ask them to show you some sites they like. Start the conversation with curiosity and interest, rather than accusation.
Tumblr has had a history of issues with pornographic content. They also have had kids who are trying to share their ideas of how to self-harm, or develop their own eating disorders (called Pro-Ana or Pro-Mia. We’ll revisit that in an upcoming blog). I’ve heard kids talk about experience with all of the above in my counseling office.
Again, we need to be aware of what our kids are doing online. We need to be having healthy, open dialog about what they’re doing and why. Tumblr is now monitoring for words such as “self-harm”, “depression”, “suicide.” They send a service announcement to let the user know about resources such as the National Suicide Lifeline and 7 Cups of Tea (we’ll revisit this one later, too). But we need to do our own monitoring. We need to be engaging with kids in ways that we know and are more aware of the state of their hearts than their online status. We don’t need to be dependent on their browser history to tell us how they’re really doing. We need to be talking and asking good questions—yes, about their online use, but about much more important matters, too.
Go for a walk with your child today. Take them for ice cream. Or coffee. Get them out of the house and ask them how they are, what they’re worrying about these days, if they had a magic wand and could change anything about their lives, their school, or even their families, what would it be? Talk. But more than talk. Listen. Empathize. Hear. Understand. Encourage and believe in them. That’s what they want. It’s why they’re going to online journals in the first place. Check out this video that explains more on exactly what is Tumblr and how it works. And follow us for more Technology Tuesdays to stay updated on you can stay in touch with where they are, what they’re doing online, and how you can connect with them in the midst of it all.