BeReal is an app that encourages users to share an unedited photo once per day in response to a push message. The user’s friends also receive the same notification, prompting the group to take a photo of what they are currently experiencing at the time.
When users receive an alert, they have up to 2 minutes to share the photo and may then view the images their friends have already uploaded. The software is straightforward to use, recording a selfie and a front-facing shot simultaneously.
What Draws Children and Teens To Use This App?
The premise of the app is to engage users with more authenticity than many other popular photo sharing apps. It has no filters and provides a small 2 minute time window to document your current state. Some BeReal prompts have unique challenges to them that users don’t expect.
What Else Should Parents Know About The App?
Users react to photos posted by others using emojis they can choose from within the app called RealMojis. Once you reply to an image with an emoji, you can now comment back and forth, just like commenting on an image on Instagram.
By default, BeReal displays photos to the user’s friends who have already contributed to their BeReals. You can also select to share your photo PUBLICLY, but it will only be seen by people who have already shared a BeReal picture during that day’s picture window.
Inappropriate Content Can Still Be Shared
Captions and descriptions could contain inappropriate and/or graphic language. Images and videos shared could be inappropriate in nature without warning. Spontaneous photos are taken of whatever the user wants to share, and this could obviously be exploited by those with bad intentions.
Location Information Can Be Shared
Geo-location is enabled by default. This means that if a BeReal is uploaded to the public Discover feed, any user will be able to see your location based on the photos that are uploaded. Given that BeReal prompts users throughout their day, photos are highly likely to be taken from private locations like at home.
The BeReal app does not feature parental controls.
Negative Reinforcement of App Usage
One possibility is created by the two-minute time restriction for taking the shot. If the shot is missed or uploaded outside the window of time, BeReal sends a notice to all the user’s friends, informing them that they were “late.” This negative reinforcement may cause users to prioritize the app between school and work during the day.
Consistent Documentation of Personal Nature
The app encourages users to take “candid” images and videos of themselves, which means users are continually divulging their whereabouts, interests, and other possible personal facts. With no privacy features or blocking abilities, it is possible for strangers to observe your child or teen’s posts and gain a more intimate knowledge of their day-by-day activities and whereabouts.
Use with caution for children 13 or older. If your child or teen is using the BeReal app, I strongly recommend that the geo-location tracking is completely disabled. In the event they are sharing a photo from a public place that they want their friends to know about, they could always type it into the caption or description to share what or where they are attending.
Additionally, your child or teen has the ability to discover other people to add to their friends list or simply add friends from their contact list. Sharing these photos with strangers can be limited by only adding close friends that the family is familiar with or family members only.
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Clayton Cranford is a retired Sergeant from Orange County Sheriff's Department in California and owner of Total Safety Solutions LLC. Clayton is one of the nation’s leading law enforcement educators on social media, child safety, and behavioral threat assessments. Clayton is the author of the definitive book on cyber safety for families, “Parenting in the Digital World.” Clayton has more than 20 years of teaching experience and was awarded the 2015 National Bullying Prevention Award from the School Safety Advocacy Council, and the 2015 American Legion Medal of Merit.
Clayton was a member of the County's Behavioral Threat Assessment Team, Crisis Negotiation Team, School Resource Officer program, and Juvenile Bureau.