Lots of pre-teens and teens are using (or asking for!) the social media app BeReal. The app has been around for several years, but has really gained popularity this year!
New apps are scary for parents because apps are largely unregulated and there are so many unknowns. We’ve learned the best way to decide if an app aligns with our family’s values is to test it out ourselves and talk to our teens (and honestly, our teens’ friends!). So that’s what we did!
What is the App BeReal?
BeReal gives you a random two-minute window to post a photo of whatever you are doing right then and there. It takes a photo of your surroundings, while simultaneously taking a photo of your face. Like this…
You never know when the notification will pop up to take your BeReal within a 24-hour period. The app’s goal is to help you see “who your friends are in their daily life.” You and your friends will get a simultaneous prompt to post, so the idea is to see what everyone is up to when they aren’t trying to share their highlight reel (the ‘gram-worthy moments!).
And yes, the app has no filters and no way to get “the perfect shot”, so as you can see, they are not usually the most flattering selfies!
- BeReal is not about posting perfection. It’s a great concept! It’s more about what you’re doing at the moment rather than posting your greatest moments. Teens need more of that.
- The app is minimal. There’s not much to it, so there aren’t too many distractions. Currently there are no ads.
- You can set settings so you only share with friends.
- You get a fun snapshot into your family/friends day. For example, I got to see Tyler at work—not something I get to see very often.
- You can report inappropriate pictures. (Not sure how effective this is, but it’s there.)
- No filters and no follower counts!
- You can view your memories as a calendar to see one snapshot from each day.
- It’s disruptive. I had notifications turned off (hey, I’m a digital wellness guru!), but that defeats the purpose. Tyler had his notifications turned on because that is what you are supposed to do. It tells you to post “Right Now”, and then tells you, “Hey, you’re late!” when you don’t post on time. This might not bother some teens too much, but with watching our own teens manage homework and activities, we don’t think they need one more deadline or distraction!
- Endless scrolling. If you have a lot of friends on the app you could spend a lot of time just browsing other people’s REAL moments while missing out on your own. 😉
- Strangers can request being friends via public discovery or phone book/contacts list.
- One of your friends could share your photo without your permission (not any different than other social media).
- The Discover feature allows you to see random people’s posts.
- It gets old! We asked several of our teens’ friends, and they are all pretty bored with the app already.
- Legally, social media apps are required to have age limits of 13+. For some reason, BeReal has a 12+ rating. Keep that in mind when kids or pre-teens start asking to use the app. We recommend 16+ for any social media.
- There is a Discover feature where your teen can view others posts which cannot be turned off.
- Photos are unmoderated.
- It’s possible for your teen to toggle between “friends only” and “world” so it would be easy for them to share their photos with anyone.
How to Decide
- Is your child legally old enough (12+)?
- Use our “Am I Ready for Social Media?” Self-Evaluation for teens and parents.
- Test the app out for yourself first with a spouse, family member, or friend.
If You Give BeReal a Try, Remember…
- Have your teen try it on your phone first. We always recommend this and walk you through the process in Untangling Teens & Tech.
- Encourage your teen to connect with a small group of friends with similar values.
- Set the settings to “friends only.”
- Make sure you are using the app too, and are friends with your teen so you can see their posts.
- Apps can change. Just because there are no ads now or direct messages with strangers, doesn’t mean it will always be that way. Stay alert!
Our Overall Takeaway
BeReal is better than many of the social media apps teens are currently using simply because of the emphasis on authenticity, no ads, no followers, only allowing posts once per day, and the ability to limit it to friends and family. However, remember these settings could change!
If you don’t want to allow the app BeReal, but feel your teen is ready to connect with friends through more than texts, we recommend the app Marco Polo. Your teen may have to convince their friends to migrate there, but it’s been a good solution for our younger teens who aren’t quite ready for social media. (Completely unsponsored—this is what we did with our oldest prior to any social media.)
And to answer the question you really want to ask—no, our three teens don’t have Be Real, but a lot of their friends do. Yes, we understand how hard it can be to be “that” parent! Our oldest teen is 17 and has limited access to social media. She currently has a 30 minute time limit on one app and she hasn’t asked for Be Real. Our younger two teens don’t have social media accounts yet.
The best way to stay on top of the latest apps is to talk to your teen about it. Something as simple as, “I hear lots of teens are using the app Be Real. Are any of your friends using it? Have you seen it? What do you think about it?”
Every teen and family is different and will make different decisions regarding their technology use. You have a choice and don’t need to feel the pressure to do what everyone else is doing. You know your teen better than anyone else. Remember these tech trends come and go…it might feel painful for your teen right now, but I promise it will pass. What’s best for your teen?
While we don’t need to feel any pressure to allow or use every app that comes along, we do have a responsibility to do our homework and keep our relationships with our kids strong. Take your time making these tech and app decisions, but spend even more time just being with your teen. That will help you to know when, or if, they are ready!
And, our course Untangling Teens & Tech is here when you’re ready to tackle tech, reconnect, and give your teen a sense of self stronger than any screen.
Let’s worry less about tech and connect more with our kids and teens!
Andrea & Tyler