What is the BeReal app, and is it appropriate for kids?
The heart behind the BeReal app is to connect each user with their friends on a daily basis in an unfiltered, more “real” sense. One picture a day is shared with your friend(s), and there are no filters to tempt anyone to curate themselves into a fairy tale perfection.
The French-based app grew in popularity and was voted 2022 iPhone App of the Year! Here’s what every parent needs to know about BeReal:
(or you can listen to the podcast!)
#1 How it works
Once you download the Be Real app, you are asked for your first name, date of birth (to make sure you are old enough to use the app), and phone number. Be Real will then send a text to that phone number for verification.
After your number is verified, you can create your username.
Next, they encourage you to “Find Your Friends” who are already using Be Real by allowing the app to access your contacts. WE DON’T RECOMMEND DOING THIS! This is more data than they need simply for the sake of convenience. Instead, we recommend manually adding the friends you want to “be real” with.
Finally, the app will prompt you to take your first picture. And yes, you’ll take this picture even if you don’t have any “friends” yet. BeReal uses both the self-facing and forward-facing cameras on your phone – but you will only ever see the forward facing on your screen. Those posed and perfected selfies are much harder to capture this way.
Once you add friend(s) you’ll be able to see each other’s BeReal for that day.
When ‘SENDING’ your picture off, the app offers the ability to share it with either “My Friends” or “Global.” The “Global” setting allows your daily BeReal to be seen by anyone with the BeReal app from the “Discovery” tab. This feature raises red flags as there are no content moderators on this feed. Anytime young people share themselves with others around the globe….there is bound to be trouble.
#2 Time To BeReal – 2 minutes left!
The unique feature that makes the app less curated and more “real” is that you cannot just take a picture and share it with your friends when you feel like it. Instead, at a designated time of the day (which is a different time every day), Be Real sends every user (regardless of time zone) a notification telling you it is time to “BeReal.”
At this point, you have 2 minutes to capture your picture and send it to your friends.
So here’s the nuanced part of that…
- You cannot see your friends’ pictures until you share yours.
- If you miss the 2-minute window, you can still post, but it will tell your friends you were late and by how much time.
One of the big concerns with this app stems from this feature and the sense of urgency and anxiety that arises when the notification pops up, alerting you it’s time to “Be Real.”
A lot of this, from what we’ve seen and experienced firsthand, has to do more with maturity. Adults, college-aged, and upper-level high students asked about this claimed little to no anxiety. Middle-school-aged girls, it seems, are most prone to the ‘pressure’ of notifications like this.
Three of Kelly’s BeReals accessed through ‘Memories’ on her account only.
Memories can be deactivated if you prefer they aren’t saved. Naturally, if you choose to save them they will be stored on the app’s server.
#3 Notifications, Data, and Location Setting
The Be Real app does require approval to send notifications. The main notification is the “It’s time to BeReal” that occurs once a day. You can also receive notifications on comments, friend requests, late BeReals, and RealMojis (see next fact), but you also have the ability to turn these notifications off as well.
Regarding data collection, The App Store states that the following data may be collected and linked to your identity:
- Location: the default is OFF, and we recommend it always remain that way.
- Contacts: If you don’t allow Be Real to access your contacts, then this won’t apply.
- Identifiers: Basic information you provide, such as your name and date of birth.
- Contact info: The phone number you’ve provided.
- User Content: Like all Social Media platforms, they have access to the pictures you post.
- Diagnostics: Information ‘needed’ to ensure the app is operating properly on your device.
The biggest concern here is location sharing. This could be potentially dangerous for obvious reasons. Especially when combined with publicly sharing your BeReal – this is a recipe for disaster.
#4 Captions, Comments, and Realmojis
The app developer suggests you “Add more personality to your BeReal by adding a caption!” A caption is just what it sounds like – an explanation or witty remark about your picture. This applies only to your current BeReal; you cannot go back and add them after that day is done.
Comments are also available to leave on your friends Be Real and vice versa. These comments can be seen by your friend’s friends. While that is nothing new on social media platforms, the way the app highlights this feature makes it sound suspicious. They say, “Comment on your friend’s BeReal and chat with all their friends.” That just doesn’t sound like what good friends do…
Finally, Be Real offers “realmojis” – personalized emojis you create. There are five RealMojis (smiling, crying- laughing, heart eyes, and thumbs up) and an “Instant RealMoji” – a one-time live reaction to a BeReal. A realmoji captures your facial expression in a circle, and the emoji it corresponds with appears to the side.
It’s nothing fancy, but it is unique.
#5 App Ratings and Brave Parenting Recommendation
Google: T [Teen]
Common Sense Media: 13+
Brave Parenting: 16+
Brave Parenting stands that all use of social media apps should be over the age of 16. The primary reason is that research shows that rates of depression, anxiety, and suicidal risk factors are far greater under 16. Furthermore, there is a causal relationship between time on social media and negative mental health symptoms. Wisdom is to hold off on social media until adolescents are more responsible and mature enough to handle the intricacies of social sharing, public comparison, and global influence.
Looking at the app from a Biblical worldview, any social sharing platform runs the risk of reinforcing negative thought patterns, covetousness, jealousy, fear (of missing out), strife, and immorality. These sinful behaviors can lead to more serious issues if left unchecked.
During our research, we did not find explicit or inappropriate content in the ‘Discovery’ section. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any. As previously mentioned, there is no moderation of the Discovery feed (that we could find). There is nothing preventing predators, creeps, or even just everyday teenagers from taking explicit pictures to post to friends (or friends of friends). Because of this possibility, the app warning states:
- Infrequent/Mild Profanity or Crude Humor
- Infrequent/Mild Mature/Suggestive Themes
- Infrequent/Mild Sexual Content and Nudity
- Infrequent/Mild Alcohol, Tobacco, or Drug Use or References
These are worldly and unholy influences that could lead a teenager astray. However, based on the app’s format, the chances are less likely than any other app. If the teen has good, solid, and even Christian friends who they would be sharing BeReal’s with, the chances are even less. Ultimately, the teen must be mature and secure enough in friendships to choose the right friends to share with. Equally important is for the teen not to be desperate for attention and connection that they would seek out any and all friends or strangers in the Discovery section or share their location.
Moreover, a teen who is grounded in their faith, unconcerned about fame, and has solid self-worth is unlikely to look at publicly shared Discovery feed and encounter those “infrequent/mild uses” of unholy content.
We encourage all parents to use the app with their child (yes, BeReal with them) for at least a couple of weeks first. This enables the parent to learn what it’s all about before giving the go-ahead to add new friends.