Sesame Street’s Big Bird conjures up sweet images of innocent, wholesome childhood play. In contrast, young kid’s today clamour to watch videos of ecowarrior “VSCO girls” on TikTok! You’re probably scratching your head right now thinking what the hell is a VSCO girl. You’re not alone. Should we as parents give up any possibility of keeping up with the massively fast moving force that is kid’s internet culture? Should we lament the loss of childhood? Should we lament the loss of feeling in control as parents?
The death of Big Bird’s puppeteer is a poignant time to reflect on how much children’s viewing interests have changed. Sesame Street was the one of the first on-screen programs developed for children. While talking birds and farm animals are still popular, there has been massive shifts in what children want to watch on their screens, and the messages they get from these.
I worked for many years as a writer for PlaySchool and was fortunate to be involved in Aussie segments of Sesame Street. We firmly focused on entertainment that helped kids learn the basics – alphabet and numbers – and the message of being kind, and to love your family. Our content was what many adults would consider suitable for children. Parents felt secure if letting their children watch our shows.
Screen content for kids, however, has changed massively. VSCO girls are huge (think Agro, or Punky Brewster in your day). How they came to be popular gives huge insight into the state of play for kid’s screen content. The name VSCO comes from an app by that name that edits photos using cute, fun filters. In the last year, the term VSCO became shorthand on social media for a particular type of teen; typically white, wealthy and eco-conscious. This concept of VSCO girl then moved onto the very popular new video-sharing/social media app for tweens/teens called TikTok, where videos of girls impersonating VSCO girls are rife.