Mobile phone with VSCO app displayed.

Parents’ Guide to the VSCO App

by Screen Time Team on 22/05/2020

There’s a bewildering number of social media apps out there, especially themed around photography and video. VSCO is one you may have heard of, as it’s steadily growing with thirty million users. Here’s what you need to know about VSCO.

What Is VSCO?

Short for Visual Supply Company, VSCO is best thought of as a camera app with a few minor social features. Users sign up for an account when they download the app, and then take photos to share either on the app or on other social media platforms. The app is most notable for its relatively fine-grained control of smartphone photography, even in the free version (giving you more control of exposure and shutter than Instagram, for example) and for its financial model of selling subscriptions to the service to access “presets,” a bundle of settings designed to improve photography in various types of situations or to achieve a specific effect.

If this sounds fairly similar to Instagram, it is, to some degree. However, the limited approach to social features makes it different from that site and TikTok. It also has a much smaller community that tends to be more photography-focused, thirty million active users as opposed to Instagram, where six out of ten active internet users in the world have an account.

What Is A “VSCO Girl?”

If you’ve heard this term as an insult, it’s simply slang for a person who uses the app to create flattering or trendy pictures of herself. While this does highlight that bullying is everywhere on the internet, it’s not a reflection of the app per se, and the app doesn’t do anything to encourage girls to use it in that fashion. Your main point of concern should be encouraging your children to be more generous and less bullying to people with self-esteem issues.

Young girl sitting on steps using a mobile phone.

Should I Be Concerned About VSCO?

While privacy will always be a concern, especially when it comes to photos, VSCO has very limited social features otherwise. You can allow users access to your location data, which concerned parents should shut off. While there is a messaging function, users can only trade messages when they follow each other, markedly different from many other platforms. It’s recommended that parents get a sense of who their kids are following on the app and why, and to be sure they know the door is open to discussion about safety and strange messages.

The main sticking point for some parents will likely be the subscription model. For $20 a year, you get the full library of presets. Free users can still use the app, which is a good camera app in of itself and might be a good way for children interested in photography to get started with experimenting, but the app itself doesn’t fully unlock unless you pay.

Each family will need to approach this differently. How you teach money management and budget will play into how and whether you enable this subscription. Have your kids sit down and consider how much they use the app and how many of these presets they really might need.

Good third-party parental controls can help you keep track of what your family is doing, and where. To learn more, try it for free!

Join the conversation