We have a lot of long talks in the car and around our dinner table with our kids, especially our teens. Communication is an ongoing thing in our home. We’ve been talking a lot lately about social media and its implication for this generation of teens. I’ve had a lot of concerns for years; which is why we didn’t allow our daughter to use social media until last fall. She’s 15 and while I believe it has some amazing attributes, teens must be cautious. Parents need to be aware. Conversation should be flowing at all times.

One of the current trends with teens is adding a link to their VSCO account in their Instagram profile description. VSCO isn’t new. I’ve been using this social media app and their photography presets for years, but its popularity continues to grow among teens. It used to be a platform with mostly artists, but has now become a place you will often find shared images that teens otherwise wouldn’t post publicly. Teens who have private Instagram accounts; yet have a VSCO account open for the whole world to view. All VSCO accounts are public. One does not need a personal VSCO account to view someone’s VSCO account.

Are parents aware their kids have VSCO accounts that can be viewed by anyone? Do teens realize that anyone can see their images? While they may love the attention it brings them, are they aware who is looking at their life? Do they really want a picture of them juuling available for anyone to see? Or the photo of them making out with their significant other? Or the ones where they are suggestively posed in little clothing? And then there are the “VSCO collections.” A place where users add pictures and content that they “like”, commonly questionable content. I often wonder if kids even like these things or if they are trying to look cool for their peers or the strangers viewing their photos. These VSCO photos portray a completely different lifestyle than how I see these teens in real life and I wonder who they are trying to be. Does this generation even know who they are? Are they constantly striving to be what they see around them? Constantly comparing their lives to people all over the world that don’t represent their reality at all. Are they trying so hard to conform to the pop culture and losing their true identity?

No, this isn’t a new problem, but this generation is scrolling through images 24/7 on their phones. Without realizing it, they are being told what’s cool. What’s accepted, how to look and act….how to talk, think and feel. Many of them never step away or take a break to think about who they want to be. What they think. How they want to dress and act.

Teens, how would you feel knowing your parents were looking at these? Or your boyfriend’s mom? Or your Aunt or Uncle? You neighbor next door? Your Coach? Your teacher at school? The scholarship or college application committee? Your future employer? And while I am certain it gives a kind of cool status among your peers today, are you thinking about a year or three down the road? Have you considered the guy that may be liking your images or messaging you; may be your dad’s age? Every image and video you post can be saved by anyone all over the world. And they can do whatever they want with it from there.

I share all this, not because I am judging anyone I’ve seen on VSCO or other social media platforms. We encourage our children to be friends with everyone. We are not naive to what many teens are doing today. The struggles and peer pressures are larger than ever. Each person they call a friend, we love and welcome to our home anytime. Unconditionally. Our home has a place for everyone. We realize that these years are filled with growing pains. Learning through living and falling. But, I think so often everyone is just doing what everyone else does and never stops to think about the consequences. They don’t stop and even really think at all. Now, with social media like VSCO, your putting your life out there for the entire world to view. And while those increase in followers and likes may feel good today, there will be future consequences that you will have to face.

I am burdened how some aspects of social media are harming this generation….if you’re a parent that has questions, please reach out. If you’re a teen, and have questions, I am always here. Communication is our greatest tool. I love each of you. Be safe. Think about what you are sharing.