OCT 12, 2022

Is BeReal Safe for Kids?

What parents need to know about BeReal

By Jackie Baucom
Gabb Family Resources

BeReal is a new social media network with a focus on authenticity. With over 28 million downloads [1], the app ranks #1 in Apple’s App Store among teenagers and young adults. 

But is this app any different from other social media platforms? Or is it feeding Gen Z’s smartphone addiction? 

someone holding a sign that says be authentic

What is BeReal?

BeReal is a simple photo sharing app that asks users to take genuine photos everyday at different times.

Once a day randomly, worldwide users are notified simultaneously to snap a photo in two minutes. A two-image collage is then captured from the front and back cameras to show each user’s location and focus.

BeReal won’t make you famous. If you want to become an influencer, you can stay on TikTok and Instagram.

—BeReal App

The app’s layout is simple—with a page for ‘My Friends’ posts (unlimited contacts chosen by the user—one post per day) and a ‘Discovery’ page (strangers who choose to share their posts with the public). In order to see any pictures, you must post that day.

three teens smiling at their phones

How Does BeReal Compare to Other Social Media Apps?

Since BeReal is a new app, it has only a fraction of users (21 million/month [2]) compared to other social media giants like TikTok (1 billion/month [3]). 

Social media risks

Although BeReal encourages authenticity, it is still social media. While the two-minute window feature motivates users to share real-life moments, the pressure to perform can create anxiety for kids.

Having only that moment in which to post is not benign; it reinforces poor digital citizenship in numerous ways. 

Users feel a need to have their device on them at all times. Furthermore, when alerted, regardless of the face-to-face interaction happening, users are compelled to drop everything and capture the moment.

Be Present or BeReal?

Let’s explore the differences between being present with real, in-person connections and the BeReal app. 

Be Present
  1. No harmful side effects

  2. Unlimited time to converse and share information

  3. Encourages behaviors that contribute to digital citizenship

  4. Kids chat in-person or in real life without needing a screen or using limited communications like text

  5. Kids aren’t distracted on a daily basis and feel calm when interacting with others

  6. Kids are more cautious communicating with strangers face to face, and can gauge intentions and body language better
BeReal
  1. Social media risks

  2. A limited 2-minute window to share real-life moments that may create feelings of anxiety and stress

  3. Discourages digital citizenship

  4. Users feel a need to have their device on them at all times

  5. Users become distracted by random posting notifications and may feel pressured to share on the app, interrupting real life

  6. Strangers can lie about their identity and there are risks of digital grooming


Encourages addiction

Gen Z, the primary customer of BeReal, is known for having a smartphone addiction.

One study found that nearly 60% of this generation are unable to go more than 4 hours without their phones before feeling uncomfortable and anxious. [4]

BeReal’s spontaneous daily prompt encourages and relies on this addiction.

BeReal Discovery Page

Similar to other social media platforms, BeReal’s Discovery page encourages users to scroll through strangers’ posts and connect with them.

five stacks of coins with the largest stack having a magnifying glass

How Does BeReal Make Money?

BeReal doesn’t have ads, and its terms prohibit advertising or commercial use. So how is the app making money? It’s not—not yet. 

BeReal stays afloat with investor money and is exploring ways to monetize the app in the future. There are reports that the app may add paid features in the next year. [5]

In the Terms of Use, it states that collected personal data may be subject to data processing activities. This means that user data may ultimately be sold to advertisers for targeted ads.

When an app is free, the user is the product, so we can assume your child’s data will likely be sold at some point.

BeReal Dangers and Risks

On the surface, this app seems to be a great way to allow kids to use social media safely. Although BeReal boasts that it won’t waste users’ time, there are significant threats once inside the app.

distraught girl looking at phone in dark room

The Discovery page

Strangers can find your kids. The Discovery page is filled with random people who choose to share a photo with the public. Some even choose to share their general locations. 

Although you can’t comment on a stranger’s post, kids can click on a stranger’s name and add them as a friend. If the friend invite is accepted, these strangers are able to see the kids’ photos and communicate with each other in the comments (BeReal doesn’t have direct messaging). 

examples of predators messaging on BeReal

Often, these public conversations move to private platforms like Instagram, WhatsApp, and Signal, leaving parents in the dark.

Location sharing

BeReal shares your location by default. Parents and kids need to be aware that geo-location is enabled by default, even though it can be turned off with the location icon or by adjusting your smartphone settings.

Negative emotions

The two-minute prompt creates urgency. The limited posting timeframe can create anxiety for many kids, who feel the need to drop everything and post immediately. The app does let you post late, but it will add a note on top of the post that it was late. 

Using an app that encourages kids to drop everything to focus on social media could be dangerous, given that social media already contributes to dangerous environments, anxious emotions, and negative self-images.

The prompt also sends the message to kids that no matter what you are doing, whether connecting with someone in person or taking a test, you should focus on the app instead before you miss your window of opportunity.

No parental controls

Parents have limited influence. Due to the simplicity of the app, there are currently no parental controls.

father and son smiling at phones

Is BeReal Safe?

BeReal markets itself as “not another social network.” While it does try to reduce mindless scrolling without including ads or influencers, it shares many of the same risks as other social media platforms, such as social isolation and increased distractions.

All social media platforms carry risks and, although precautions can be taken, it’s not foolproof. Talk to your kids about the Discovery page and the potential dangers hiding there. Make sure to turn off your child’s geo-location to protect their privacy. 

father and daughter smiling at tablet

The Bottom Line

BeReal may appear to be safer than other apps, but that doesn’t mean kids shouldn’t be monitored. Remind your child that pictures are not accurate portrayals of life, as anyone can seem flawless for a millisecond. 

There are risks of being contacted by predators. Kids often share personal details unwittingly online such as a shirt with a school name or a house number. Predators are observant and can track a child using these small details.

Continue having conversations about digital citizenship and the importance of living outside the screen.

To learn more about protecting kids during this digital age, sign up for our email updates. You can also find more articles about empowering your family at Gabb Family Resources.

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