No filters. 2 minutes to post. Forward and backward facing camera.
What is BeReal?
BeReal is a social photo sharing app that allows its users to share unfiltered raw photos in ‘real time’. It is dubbed ‘casual Instagram’ where its users are given a random time throughout the day and they have a 2 minute timeframe to capture whatever it is that they are doing to post to their followers. Retakes are possible but discouraged and if a user does choose to retake, their followers will be able to see this. The idea behind BeReal is to create more authentic experiences on social media where no filters or ‘likes’ are a feature.
The appeal of more authentic experiences has been popular with secondary-aged children, however, we are now hearing of primary-aged children using the platform. Whilst the premise of this social media platform is to be casual and ‘real’, like all social media there will always be risks and harms.
Is BeReal safe for my children?
Like any social network today, BeReal comes with security, safety and wellbeing risks. It is important to note that within these popular apps, there are settings. If a user does not manually choose the settings they want, they will be given the default settings. The default settings are the settings the developer of the app automatically gives you, which are usually set up to benefit the app rather than the safety and wellbeing of the user. Before allowing you child to participate on BeReal we recommend considering the following key areas.
When setting up any gaming or social media profile, getting into the settings is vital. For security, creating a private account should be the first point of call. Once the account has been set to private, users will be invited to connect with people. This is where it is important to audit who will be allowed into this private space and who will have the digital door closed on them to stay out.
Like all other giants in the social media world, location sharing on BeReal is an option. One positive: sharing of location is not default but an option for a user to send publicly at their choosing each time they post. If a user does choose to have their location turned on they are potentially giving away their precise location which can be seen by users with malintent.
Given the nature of BeReal – to produce more ‘authentic’ content – one might argue it may reduce the impact on digital wellbeing. However, it is important to note that there is the element of ‘time pressure’. Users are given two minutes at random throughout the day to post whatever they are doing. If they do not meet this two-minute window and post ‘late’, their followers will know this. Users are also tracked on how many takes of the photo was made before it was posted which is also known to their followers. Additionally, there is the option to access the Discovery page where public content is posted. Accessing this content may increase the likelihood of seeing inappropriate or harmful content, therefore impacting on digital wellbeing. Lastly, BeReal users are being encouraged to return daily so they do not miss the two-minute window, therefore they are more connected to their device, which could impact their overall digital wellbeing.
What CONTENT will a user see?
Users will be exposed to more authentic content occurring in real time for people on their friends list. If a user accesses the Discovery page they will see content from people they are not connected with on their friends list. This is where is users may be more likely to see harmful or inappropriate images and themes.
What information does BeReal COLLECT?
As we test drove the sign up process we found the following information was collected:
- Full name
- Date of Birth
- Phone Number
- Mobile Phone Contacts
- Phone usage data
- Photos uploaded
It’s important to note that when accepting BeReal’s terms and conditions you agree that your data and photos will be stored for up to three years (even after account deletion).
Who might your kids CONNECT with on BeReal?
Existing friends: Every BeReal user has a unique link that can be shared with their friends via other communication methods to make a connection.
Phone contacts: Upon sign up, BeReal will encourage you to ‘Allow Access to Phone Contacts’. Accepting will give BeReal access to the contact information of your friends and family. This enables BeReal to identify any phone contact that may be a BeReal user and suggest you make a connection.
New connections: Can be made by scrolling through the Discover section. If you have posted publicly to BeReal you may receive unwanted contact of friendship requests from strangers. Once a connection is made, your BeReal friend may be able to share your BeReal handle to expose you others on the network.
Conversations to have with your kids before they use BeReal
- Why should we only connect with friends we know and trust from our offline worlds?
- How could sharing our location on BeReal be unsafe for you and your family?
- Where can you get help if things go wrong?
- Have you asked consent from friends to be in your BeReal images? Have you asked consent from the owner of the home or venue you are in to post an image whereby their property may be in the image?
- Is it a big deal if you don’t post every day and how can we set boundaries with our friends about this?
- What is oversharing? Do you notice your friends oversharing? How could this be perceived by others?
Keeping young people safe on BeReal
- Knowledge is power: Be aware that there is no possible way to monitor everything your child sees on BeReal and choosing how your child uses the app whether it be privately with friends or publicly on the Discover page is crucial.
- Do some investigating: Make your own account to gain an authentic understanding of the content you will be fed, the collection of data that is asked of you, and who you may be connected to in the spaces available.
- Hold off on the approval: Delay allowing your child onto any social media platform before age 13. Have meaningful conversations with them about what it takes to be a safe digital user and create technology protocols for the family to follow.
Author: Kiah Allen | Cyber Safety Educator, Cyber Safety Project