Is the VSCO App Safe for Teens?

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October 21, 2019

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What is the VSCO app?

  • The VSCO app is a popular photo and video editor available for mobile devices
  • Users can choose to use the free version of the app or subscribe to the premium version of the app
  • The free version of the VSCO app gives users access to a selection of filters, basic editing tools, and the community platform
  • The premium version of the VSCO app gives users access to more advanced editing tools, video editing capabilities, and a wider selection of filters
  • In addition to being a photo and video editor, VSCO is also a photo sharing platform and community
  • Unlike Instagram, users can’t like or comment on VSCO posts
  • While users can follow accounts on the app, follower metrics are not shown publicly
  • Users can also create “Journals” on the app that function like blog posts (they have titles, subtitles, multiple photos, and the option to add more text)
  • If a user likes an image they can “favorite” the post or repost it to their VSCO profile
  • The “Discover” tab functions very similarly to Instagram’s Discover tab. It shows images that the app thinks the user will like
  • Posts on the VSCO app can contain hashtags and includes the filter used on the image in the description
  • Users can private message each other on the app, as long as they both follow each other
  • Profiles are public and the app makes it easy to share the photos you edit onto other social media platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, WeChat, Pinterest, and via SMS text messaging

Why should parents care?

  • At the time of this review, the VSCO app has 20 million weekly users and is incredibly popular with teens. Gen Z makes up 75% of the app’s user base
  • Some tweens and teens use VSCO as a “secret Instagram” since a lot of parents don’t know that the app has a community component to it
  • Since the VSCO app doesn’t publicly display metrics like comments, likes, and follower counts, a lot of students use the app to post content that they consider a work in progress and isn’t “Instagram perfect”. So, it’s important for parents to monitor the app to ensure posts won’t have a negative impact on their child
  • In the summer of 2019 the term “VSCO Girl” went viral and was used to describe teenage girls who use the app, dress casually, and are environmentally conscious - this boosted the app’s popularity
  • The term “VSCO Girl” and the app briefly became so popular that people were posting about it on the TikTok app, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube 
  • Unfortunately, the “VSCO Girl” subculture quickly turned into a target for cyberbullying, according to NBC

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This is great info, thanks for giving me some ideas on how to start a dialogue with my teen!

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Sharon M.

Parent VIP Member

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Josh's presentation about social media was unbelievably fantastic. Our students learned so much about what kids should and shouldn't be doing. The fact that it is such a thoughtful process made it all worthwhile.

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Director of College Advising

Educator Webinar Attendee

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This webinar is a very helpful eye-opener on the apps that are popular with my students.

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This app is listed in the SmartSocial.com Green Zone.
This app is not safe for students to use unsupervised, but a Green Zone app can serve a positive purpose to help a student to navigate social media and someday build an online brand. Read more below to find out why this app is in the Green Zone.

This app is listed in the SmartSocial.com Gray Zone.
Gray Zone apps often contain lots of private & disappearing messages, and strangers can use this to chat with students. Parents should participate in these apps with students to keep them safe. This zone can be a great place for family time since many of these apps can be entertaining, and let your students express themselves. Read more below to find out why this app is in the Gray Zone.

This app is listed in the SmartSocial.com Red Zone.
Red Zone apps often have lots of anonymous features, adult content, and easy contact with strangers. Supervision is strongly suggested on each of these apps or move your kids to a safer zone. All apps require parental supervision, these apps more than others. Read more below to find out why this app is in the Red Zone or view our list of 100+ Apps to find a safer app with your student.
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This trend is categorized as a Dangerous Social Media Challenge.
Viral challenges encourage students to do dangerous things to garner likes, views, attention, and subscribers. These challenges can be found across several social networks and may encourage students to perform dangerous activities. SmartSocial.com keeps parents updated on these social media challenges before an incident may occur in your community.

Table of Contents

Have you ever heard of a VSCO girl? The internet fashion trendsetter for 2019 was born on the VSCO app. It’s a photo editing and sharing app, similar to Instagram with various filters and photo editing enhancements. Unlike Instagram, VSCO users can’t like or comment on each other’s photos.

They also can’t set their profiles to private, which means anything teen users are posting on VSCO can easily be viewed by complete strangers.

Parents in Ireland express outrage over the VSCO app

Children of the Digital Age-Ireland's Cyber Safety Professionals-Cork parents in uproar over teen's sexualized images on VSCO

“Parents in Cork expressed outrage today, following the discovery of a number of young Cork girls sharing images on an image sharing platform called VSCO. The self-generated, or user-generated content was described as inappropriate by those who viewed the imagery.”

“What the platform does appear to lack, are privacy settings. By default, location information is stored in the metadata of the images. This information can be used to identify, exactly where the image was taken.”

Source: Children of the Digital Age

According to the Family Online Safety Institute, the VSCO app has become incredibly popular with teens

Family Online Safety Institute: Good Digital Parenting: What is VSCO?

“The privacy settings that VSCO offers are slim to none. Users don’t have the option to make their accounts private, so anyone can see their photos that they share. VSCO also has a default setting that shares the location that any picture is taken or shared at. If users don’t opt to turn off the feature, anyone can see these locations.”

“What’s even more problematic about VSCO is the types of photos that many teenagers are sharing. Because fewer parents are aware of VSCO (sorry parents), teenagers often use it to share their riskier photos. These can range from pictures with liquor bottles and vape pens to selfies dressed inappropriately.”

Source: Family Online Safety Institute

What is the VSCO app?

  • The VSCO app is a popular photo and video editor available for mobile devices
  • Users can choose to use the free version of the app or subscribe to the premium version of the app
  • The free version of the VSCO app gives users access to a selection of filters, basic editing tools, and the community platform
  • The premium version of the VSCO app gives users access to more advanced editing tools, video editing capabilities, and a wider selection of filters
  • In addition to being a photo and video editor, VSCO is also a photo sharing platform and community
  • Unlike Instagram, users can’t like or comment on VSCO posts
  • While users can follow accounts on the app, follower metrics are not shown publicly
  • Users can also create “Journals” on the app that function like blog posts (they have titles, subtitles, multiple photos, and the option to add more text)
  • If a user likes an image they can “favorite” the post or repost it to their VSCO profile
  • The “Discover” tab functions very similarly to Instagram’s Discover tab. It shows images that the app thinks the user will like
  • Posts on the VSCO app can contain hashtags and includes the filter used on the image in the description
  • Users can private message each other on the app, as long as they both follow each other
  • Profiles are public and the app makes it easy to share the photos you edit onto other social media platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, WeChat, Pinterest, and via SMS text messaging

The VSCO app in the news:

[A student] said that when [they were] in high school people used [VSCO] as a ‘secret Instagram,’ because it was a more carefree space.

Bloomberg

The Community Guidelines state that material posted should be appropriate for all audiences; however, that is subjective and some images portray suggestive, sexy material and other material that may be considered too explicit for kids. Searches can also turn up images for marijuana and alcohol… While users can report inappropriate material for removal, it's unlikely pictures that might strike parents as inappropriate would be removed since the app is really designed for adults.

Common Sense Media

Why should parents care?

  • At the time of this review, the VSCO app has 20 million weekly users and is incredibly popular with teens. Gen Z makes up 75% of the app’s user base
  • Some tweens and teens use VSCO as a “secret Instagram” since a lot of parents don’t know that the app has a community component to it
  • Since the VSCO app doesn’t publicly display metrics like comments, likes, and follower counts, a lot of students use the app to post content that they consider a work in progress and isn’t “Instagram perfect”. So, it’s important for parents to monitor the app to ensure posts won’t have a negative impact on their child
  • In the summer of 2019 the term “VSCO Girl” went viral and was used to describe teenage girls who use the app, dress casually, and are environmentally conscious - this boosted the app’s popularity
  • The term “VSCO Girl” and the app briefly became so popular that people were posting about it on the TikTok app, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube 
  • Unfortunately, the “VSCO Girl” subculture quickly turned into a target for cyberbullying, according to NBC

Best Social Media Age?

SmartSocial.com Suggestions for Social Media:

  • Ages 0-13: Private
  • Age 10: Social Media/Cell Phone Agreement
  • Ages 13: Have a family discussion regarding what should be on social media
  • Age 13-14: Build a private portfolio and post positive volunteer photos (and accomplishments/projects) online
  • Age 15: Make your portfolio public as a website that helps the students shine online
  • Age 17: Colleges should be able to find a positive online footprint for your student

What can parents do?

  • Before giving your student access to the VSCO app, download the app, spend some time becoming familiar with it, then determine if it’s safe for your student to use
  • If you decide that it is safe for your family, regularly monitor their posts, stay involved, and have frequent discussions about what is positive to post (and what isn’t)
  • Consider encouraging your tweens and teens to learn programs like Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom if they have an interest in photography and editing. These programs can be highly desirable for college admissions, internship, or job applicants to list on their resume
  • Remind your children to never private message strangers on the app, not everyone is who they say they are online

Conclusion

The VSCO girl trend is making the app extremely popular. While it’s impossible to say how long the fashion trend will last, the VSCO app continues to gain new users. It’s now among the top downloaded apps for the second half of 2019 in both the Apple Store and Google Play Store, according to Bloomberg.


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