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TikTok has released a new (but familiar!) feature within their app called ‘TikTok Now’. Our online safety experts have taken a look to assess what TikTok Now is, the safeguarding concerns that come with it, and the comparisons it has to the popular photo sharing app BeReal.
What is TikTok Now?
TikTok Now is a newly released feature on the video-hosting social media platform TikTok. It was originally launched in the U.S. in September 2022 but has now been added as an update to apps in the U.K. and will soon roll out to other regions.
“TikTok Now invites you and your friends to capture what you’re doing in the moment using your device’s front and back camera. You’ll receive a daily prompt to capture a 10-second video or a static photo to easily share what you’re up to.”
If all this sounds familiar, it’s probably because of BeReal, the app that has seen explosive growth in popularity over the past year (over 1000% increase in downloads!). Just like TikTok Now, BeReal aims for users to share the realities of their lives, rather than curated and carefully edited content, as often seen on platforms such as Instagram.
Both platforms use similar methodology to encourage their users to showcase the ‘real’ side of their lives, including:
Limiting user’s uploads to once a day.
Randomly timed prompts so users can’t predict when they’ll be asked to create content.
Short time limits for uploading (two minutes for BeReal and three minutes for TikTok Now) …so there’s not enough time to jump up from lazing on the sofa and get to the nearest trendy restaurant or halfway up a mountain hike!
However, there are also some key differences between TikTok Now and Be Real.
What Are the Differences Between TikTok Now and BeReal?
Ability to comment on stranger’s posts
Time window given to post within
Type of content users can post
A 10-second video or a photo
Viewing how many times a photo was retaken before posting
What Are the Differences Between TikTok Now and BeReal?
The ability to comment on stranger’s posts: Be Real do not offer this feature.
Time window given to post within: 2 minutes.
Type of content users can posts: Photo.
Location sharing: BeReal can show a user’s location.
Viewing how many times a photo was retaken before posting: BeReal offer this feature.
The ability to comment on stranger’s posts: TikTok Now offer this feature.
Time window given to post within: 3 minutes.
Type of content users can posts: Photo or a 10 second video.
Location sharing: TikTok Now does not show a user’s location.
Viewing how many times a photo was retaken before posting: TikTok Now do not offer this feature.
Why Did TikTok Copy BeReal?
The short answer? Everyone does it! In the world of apps and social media platforms, when an element becomes popular on one, it’s usually not before long the others follow suit and release their own similar feature. Tech companies want you to stay on their platforms, so if they see users enjoying something on another app, it makes sense that they’d create their own version.
Also, although it may seem like a straight rip off, there are enough differences between TikTok Now and BeReal that some people will prefer one platform over the other. Although platforms can patent their ideas, so long as there’s a difference in how it’s presented, the concept itself is up for grabs. There’s no copyright or trademark laws protecting apps from copycatting each other.
What Are TikTok Now’s Safety Features?
By default, all TikTok Now posts are private and only shown to friends and followers. To share posts publicly, users have to change settings to be shown to ‘everyone’.
The option to show to everyone is not available to users under 18-years-old.
To “protect against unwanted interactions”, TikTok say people aged between 13- to 15-years-old will only be able to post comments on their friend’s photos or videos. However, our online safety experts found that a testing account for an under 18-year-old could view, comment and interact with strangers’ posts.
A key difference between BeReal and TikTok Now is the viewable ‘retakes’ feature. BeReal allows users to view how many times someone has retaken their photo. The implication is that the more someone has retaken a photo, the less ‘real’ it is. Young people may be worried they will be mocked or ‘called out’ for not posting the first photo they took. However, this pressure presents a risk of oversharing personal or private information to avoid being seen as fake. Although our Safety Experts found that TikTok Now does not use the ‘retake’ feature, others will still be able to view if someone posted on time or ‘late’ (which has a similar implied pressure).
The concept of ‘being real’ and sharing your authentic life could also encourage the oversharing of information that a young person might later regret posting. For example, although social media has done a lot to help break down stigmas around mental health, it can also be used in an unhealthy way to find attention rather than seeking suitable help and support. Should a young person be experiencing heightened emotions or mental health struggles, they may share inappropriate content related to this experience to ‘be authentic’.
The very tight time restrictions for posting can create a ‘it’s now or never’ feeling – if you don’t post, you’re going to miss out. This is reinforced by the ‘post to view’ element of TikTok Now: if you don’t post, you can’t view the posts of others.
The sense of pressure could override a young person’s decision-making process. There’s no time to fully think through and decide whether it’s appropriate to share what they’re doing, where they are and check the photo or video for identifying information.
What is FOMO?
An acronym for ‘fear of missing out’, FOMO is a slang term that can apply to a variety of situations but generally means that someone feels they are missing out on something good by not participating or attending.
Age restrictions on TikTok as a whole are easily bypassed. A young person can create an account as an 18-year-old simply by using an 18-year-olds date of birth. There’s no verifying process to check that it is their real age. The user can then access the full set of features which comes from TikTok Now, including being able to publicly share their image or video to strangers.
One of the key differences between BeReal and TikTok Now is the option to upload videos. This creates the possibility of users uploading videos that feature harmful or upsetting content. It is not clear how video content is monitored and moderated.
Viewing harmful and/or inappropriate content can have short- and long-term consequences, especially for children and young people. The video feature could also be used as a vehicle for cyberbullying and embarrassing others: secretly videoing a fellow pupil, friend or teacher and uploading it online before the person featured has time to notice.
The contrary information between what TikTok Now claims is their policy for under 18-year-olds interacting with strangers compared to what our online safety experts found, leaves ambiguity around what young people will experience when using the app.
The potential interaction between under 18-year-olds and adults is concerning, particularly given the nature of the content. If a young person is sharing their immediate settings and surroundings, this raises safeguarding risks because it may be possible to deduce their location. Posts can also give away key details about a young person’s lifestyle, hobbies and school that could be misused by predators to gain trust, blackmail and manipulate.
As TikTok has more users than BeReal, this increases the chances for interactions with people with poor intentions.
Daily Active Users
– BeReal – 20 million
– TikTok – Over 700 million
Use the safety settings first. As it is unclear at this time whether it is a common error allowing under 18-year-olds to interact with strangers on TikTok Now, make sure you check this for yourself on a young person’s device. If you know they are using TikTok Now, talk to the young person in your care about ensuring their post is shared only with their friends, as well as what they should do if a stranger interacts with them online. Make sure they know how to block, delete and report someone on TikTok. Visit our Safety Centre to find out more.
Talk about safe sharing. Without naming the feature, find out if the young person in your life knows what TikTok Now is. For example, you could ask them how often they post on social media and what sort of things they post. Keep the tone casual. Then, have a conversation about sharing safely online. Discuss how it’s not important to keep information about your location private but also details about their personal life, including emotional moments.
Remind young to check, check and check again! We encourage all users of social media to analyse their photos and videos before uploading to the internet, as you may be giving away more information than you realise. Talk to the young person in your care and remind them that, even though TikTok Now and BeReal have tight time limits, it’s essential they check every photo and video for private and personal information before they upload it.
Practice fun TikTok Now content ideas. Together come up with some fun ideas of things you can share! For example, nature photos that don’t identify a particular location or pet videos that don’t include any names or addresses on a collar. You could also practice some fun photo techniques that can be done quickly and look ‘arty’, such as close-ups of different textures, playing with contrasting colours on materials nearby or taking funny selfies. Having alternative ideas for photos could help alleviate the time-limit pressures that could cause a young person to share content in a rush.
Learn how to block, delete and report someone on TikTok by visiting our Safety Centre