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Sunday Mornings with Rania: From VSCO Girls to Vlogging, Here’s the 411 for Parents

Rania Mankarious
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Rania Mankarious

Rania Mankarious is executive director of Crime Stoppers of Houston(Photo: lawellphoto.com)

I find myself scratching my head at times trying to following the twists and turns of the teenage life, specifically, the teen girl. Trends bubble up and come and go but there are always fascinating nuggets that I stop to examine because they teach us so much about what things are being marketed to our kids and how they are resonating with them. So, how much do you know about VSCO girls and the push to Vlog? I guarantee you the teen in your home knows everything, let’s make sure you do as well. 

What is a VSCO girl? 
Everyone is trying to find out. Even dictionary.com is weighing in: “VSCO girl is a term, generally used as an insult, for a young, usually white woman who posts trendy pictures of herself edited on the app VSCO.” 

It all began in 2011 with the VSCO app, which allowed users to edit photos and videos with preset filters and unique tools. Once completed, the photos or videos would be shared via the VSCO app itself or on other platforms like Instagram or Snapchat. The goal was to create and share often. The concept evolved in 2017-2018 to define girls (usually Caucasian) who are obsessed with posting perfectly staged photos that have been carefully created and curated. The VSCO girl was about perfection and status.

By 2019, tweens and teens got ahold of the concept and turned it away from perfect photos with perfect filters to more of a lifestyle - and it’s become a lifestyle that teens have tapped into and companies are monopolizing on. Today’s millennial and Gen Zers have come together becoming the modern VSCO girl: they uniformly drink coffee, oat milk, use reusable straws, and water from reusable Hydro flask bottles while wearing staple pieces including scrunchies (remember the $2 scrunchie of the '80s? You can now find them at $200+ thanks to the VSCO craze), Birkenstock sandals, shell necklaces, oversized t-shirts, and Lululemon active wear. The VSCO girl even speaks a certain way and uses phrases like “sksksk” and “I oop” - the former is meant as an expression of excitement or awkwardness, the latter to acknowledge a mistake. Ask a VSCO girl where those phrases come from and they have no idea but they uniformly use them. (For your reference, both of these expressions have been traced back to Black female, drag, and/or LGBTQ communities.) 

Obsessed with the social media platform TikTok and Instagram, the VSCO girl lives her life online and takes great pride in her title. Here’s the deal - while the movement is not negative, it has many who target it and make fun of its followers. Beyond that, it is a tremendous example of how deeply invested young girls are in belonging and how quickly they can get swept up in a social media movement that parents are totally unaware of. And this is a MOVEMENT. Turn to any page of Seventeen or Elle Magazine and you’ll find steps to turn yourself into a VSCO girl. Amazon sells VSCO girl “starter packs”. Even Fox Business has taken time to examine the costs associated with the VSCO movement - and they are in the millions. Dangerous or not, the creation and affiliation of a group so massive can also lead to catastrophic isolation and bullying. Putting a target on any young group of girls raises concerns. One day they belong, the next day they don’t. One day VSCO is “cool,” the next, it’s embarrassing. In a world where these girls chronicle their every move on permanent platforms, this has the potential to create serious problems. 

Add to that the average teen’s obsession for social media and the need to be reality TV stars in their own lives and it’s no wonder that teens have moved on from posting photos on Instagram to Instagram Stories to full-on vlogging or video blogging. One such example is Bethany Mota - with almost 10 million followers, the Calif. teen posts videos on everything from what to wear to school to what to pack for lunch to how to style your hair to put on makeup. It’s easy to produce (cell phone in hand is all that’s needed), free to upload (hello, YouTube) and voila - you have the ability to share your entire life, in real time, all the time, with anyone who chooses to follow you - worldwide. And parents are pushing their kids to get on the bandwagon too because the potential to make millions is there - rare, but there. But vloggers beware: 

  • We are actually seeing an increase of teen drivers getting into terrible car accidents as they “vlog and drive.” Teens cannot and should never use their phones while driving, especially not to record a video blog or have a conversation with their followers. 
  • Once you begin vlogging, your child’s privacy and your family’s privacy is completely at stake. What is posted stays on forever and once followers start attaching to your child and/or your family, they become possessive. 
  • It’s easy to feel the urge to try and create viral videos in attempt to gain followers. But ask yourself - are lines being crossed in an attempt to create content? Are you risking your reputation? 
  • With exposure will come hurtful comments. The internet is a powerful hub for bullying and critics. Teen vloggers may not be mentally mature enough to handle the criticism and the backlash might be damaging to their psyches. 
  • Drive for likes and follows will develop and can become an obsessive compulsive addiction driving how long teens are online, how much content they develop and what kind of content they push out. It’s very dangerous territory for teens. 

It’s no question that our kids live in a new world. From the need to join massive movements that definite who they are, what they wear and what they say to the methods in which they express themselves, there is tremendous pressure. The stakes are high for those who dive way in; parents, as we familiarize ourselves with the risks, talk through the dangers with your children and remind them that their identity is in who they are and were born to be and that is by far, good enough. 

Read past Sunday Mornings with Rania posts here. Find more information on Crime Stoppers of Houston on their website or follow them on Facebook. Have topics in mind that you’d like Rania to write about? Comment below or email her at rmankarious@crime-stoppers.org. Rania is co-host of a weekly podcast which features interesting local and national guests who used their platforms for the good of the community. Connect with Rania on Instagram and Twitter

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