Is the VSCO App Safe for Teens?

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Is the VSCO App Safe for Teens?

October 21, 2019
Green Zone

Parents and Teachers: This app is listed in the Green Zone.
We believe this app is a STARTING POINT for your student, but that you must monitor your student on every app they are on. Join our weekly newsletter to learn about the 100+ App Reviews at

Gray Zone

Parents and Teachers: Please note this app is listed in the Gray Zone.
Parents should participate in these apps with students to keep them safe.
Join our weekly newsletter to learn about the 100+ App Reviews at

Red Zone

Parents and Teachers: This app is listed in the Red Zone. We believe this app is not safe for students to use without adult supervision. Join our weekly newsletter to learn about the 100+ App Reviews at

Dangerous Social media challenges

Parents and Teachers: This app is listed as a Dangerous Social Media Challenge. Knowing about social media challenges before your teen does can help you keep them safe before an incident occurs. Join our weekly newsletter to learn about the 100+ App Reviews at

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.


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? 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


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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