BeReal Is a New 'Unfiltered' Social Media App—Is It Safe for Kids?

BeReal is a new social media app that offers users a chance to escape the over-curated world of influencer lifestyles we associate with Instagram and Facebook.

Smiling friends looking at teenage boy's phone while sitting against soccer field
Photo: Getty

Remember when we all got Facebook back in the day, and the most provocative posts were photos or descriptions of your lunch? There was no news in the newsfeed, no ads trying to sell you anything, and probably the most essential aspect of early social media: there was little FOMO. Once users started adding filters to photos and creating unrealistic versions of a person's experience that encouraged likes, shares, and comments from anyone, FOMO rose sharply, and with it, anxiety and depression across the age spectrum rose too.

We've seen a parade of experts on news shows saying that social media is driving a mental health crisis in the U.S. and for many parents, we can see how kids comparing themselves to friends—and total strangers —online can negatively impact their mental and emotional health. In one study published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, researchers followed 143 college students and limited their social media to less than 30 minutes a day. Astonishingly, researchers noted that when users decreased their time on social media apps, their loneliness and depression also decreased.

But in a world where sometimes social media can feel like the only way to connect with others, how do we balance being able to keep our apps without harming mental and emotional health? That seems to be the question that a new app called BeReal is asking.

The BeReal app is a new social media app that tries to create a set of boundaries that force users to be as authentic as possible. The app launched in 2019, but in 2022 the BeReal app has seen a 315 percent growth uptick thanks to a clever marketing tactic whereby the BeReal creators formed a college ambassador program to get other young folks signed up—and it's working. But what exactly does BeReal do, and is the BeReal app safe for kids?

Here is everything parents need to know.

What Is BeReal?

The BeReal app is a photo-sharing app that aims to be the polar opposite of an influencer-type social media lifestyle. It was created in 2019 and founded in 2020 by a French app designer, Alexis Barreyat. And while the app does not appear to use new, flashy technology, it does do something refreshing: it takes away a ton of the features we've come to expect from social media photo-sharing apps like filters and editing. Where Instagram and Facebook are built on the idea of branding an individual to help build a massive following, BeReal does the exact opposite; it keeps social media as authentic as possible by preventing branding and audience building.

How Does the BeReal App Work?

The app has some genius rules that may help create a new social media experience whereby curated hyper-edited realities are a thing of the past. Here are the BeReal app boundaries that every user must operate within:

  • There are no filters.
  • Users get a two-minute window to snap on photo.
  • The two-minute window is constantly changing times, creating a sense of spontaneity and preventing users from being able to stage photos.
  • All users from the same geographical region get the same two-minute window.
  • The app uses the phone camera to take a photo that is both forward and selfie facing so that other users can see a real-time authentic view of what the creator is experiencing.

If a user doesn't like their photo, they can retake it one time and post it up to two hours later. However, the BeReal app will label that photo as delayed so that other users will know that it was a do-over. And to prevent lurking, the only people who can view uploaded photos are people in a user's friend list who also posted a photo.

Is BeReal Safe?

As a parent of a tween who is dying to have his own social media, I love the concept behind the BeReal app. Authenticity is something that has become precious and rare online these days, and an opportunity to contrast the depressing worldview that offered by other apps like Instagram and Facebook make BeReal feel like a safer option. But is it?

From a mental health perspective, the BeReal app may be a healthier choice as it does not allow users to incentivize popularity through likes, shares, and comments. There are no number counts or ways to objectively compare one account to another.

In a statement to CNN, BeReal said that they were aiming to create "an alternative to addictive social networks" by giving users the chance to show friends who they really are in an authentic way. "BeReal won't make you famous; if you want to become an influencer, you can stay on TikTok and Instagram."

How Old Should Kids Be To Use the BeReal App?

According to the Apple App Store, BeReal is intended for kids ages 12 and up. Meanwhile, the Google app store lists the BeReal app as T for Teen. So, what's the difference?

According to the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRT), apps get rated against several categories. They are:

  • E for Everyone
  • E10+ Everyone 10years-old and up
  • T for Teen or 13 years old and up
  • M for Mature
  • A for Adult

E10+ is generally considered suitable for kids ages 10 and up, and may include "cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes," according to ESRT.

T for Teen, on the other hand, is a little more grown-up and may contain "violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language," according to ESRT.

What Should Parents Know About the Bereal Privacy Settings?

The BeReal app privacy setting state that they processing personal data in accordance with French law because the app was designed in France. Since France is part of the EU, citizens who use EU-based technology enjoy the world's strictest personal data rules. In short, BeReal must be transparent about what information it collects, how that information is used, and how long the app retains that information, all of which can easily be found on a simple chart in their privacy policy.

The Takeaway

Parents can rest easy that the BeReal app is not another social media platform that will cater to fantasies of popularity in the manner that Instagram and Facebook do. There does not appear to be a built-in drive to encourage users to stay on the app for extended periods of time or compete for likes and shares. Authenticity is the game and connecting with real-life friends in the goal.

That said, as safe as the BeReal app appears to be, it is always a wise idea for parents to download and tinker with any new app to be sure they see and understand what their kids see and understand. And, of course, it is strongly recommended that parents continuously talk about online safety and goals with social media. Because as much as we love the idea BeReal wants users to enjoy an authentic experience that won't lead to FOMO, the real way we can keep kids mentally and emotionally healthy with regard to social media is by making sure it is a good fit and limiting its influence over our lives.

We reached out to BeReal for comment on this story, but have not heard back at the time of publication. BeReal has not yet been reviewed by Common Sense Media, a trusted go-to site many parents use to best determine appropriateness for all forms of media for their kids.

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