What Is ‘Instagram Reels’ and How To Use It

According to a Microsoft study done in 2000, the average human attention span is 12 seconds. They did the same study 15 years later and found that it was now 8 seconds. If you’ve interacted with a teenager, you know apps like Snapchat and TikTok are on the rise, possibly because these apps feature short videos, 7-15 seconds each, for their users.

TikTok mainly has risen in this category because of the users’ ability to be creative, seen, or just be funny. (For more info on TikTok, check out my post & video tutorial HERE). Reels is now trying to capitalize on this growing trend and popularity.

However, Reels isn’t an app (at this point), but a feature in an app you probably already use- Instagram. Yup, it’s an additional feature, just like a post or a story on Instagram. The addition of this feature was added because the Facebook-owned Instagram app saw the masses making TikTok videos and spending time on their competitors’ app.


Reels is an Instagram feature that allows you to make short videos while you dance, lip-sync, be creative, or just be funny. Similar to TikTok, it allows you to overlay audio, filters, and text to your video posts. And just like your Insta-Story, you can search and see your friends’  Reels’ right from the app. So is this just another TikTok? Well, yes and no.


Reels is certainly VERY similar to TikTok in its function. It’s an array of endless scrolling of content, and the variety is certainly across the spectrum. However, it is different in a few ways.

First, it’s a feature that’s in an existing social media environment. What I mean by this is that we’ve been using Instagram for photos, filters, and stories for a while. The friends and followers we have were based on these features and uses. Therefore, these people are here for that and not just our Reels.

TikTok, however, is an app where you had to create a whole new profile, a whole new friend group, and a whole new audience. This means that there could be a different level of accountability within Reels than TikTok. This makes Reels a bit different.

Secondly, these apps are somewhat similar because the content may or may not be appropriate. Just like TikTok, Reels does filter out pornography specifically, but minimal clothing is still allowed. Because of this, parents and ministry leaders should be aware, so they can monitor and/or have conversations about such things. Instagram as a whole can and has felt ‘safer’ in the realm of social media apps, but there are always dangers.

Lastly, Reels can be a feature that students get lost in. The endless scrolling and unpredictability of “what’s next” keeps users scrolling and scrolling and scrolling. I heard this described by Tristan Harris, Center of Humane Technology, as “a bottomless vortex of stuff.” These short seven to fifteen seconds of attention span videos pile up, and users can find several minutes or hours are gone from their day. Time management is important in apps or features like this.


Reels, like TikTok, is not going away any time soon. As a parent or ministry leader, knowing about these features is key to connecting to your student. Parents should have discussions with their students about their use, if any, and how and who they should connect with.

Ministry leaders, as always, be cautious about where your ministry lives online. If you point students to places that parents aren’t prepared to parent, you risk the relationship between parent and child. Be sure to properly educate your families on ‘what and how’ with specific social media platforms.

If you’d like more info on Reels or to see a tutorial check out our video tutorial HERE!

Tony Bianco has been in Student Ministry for over ten years with his wife Diamend with whom they have two amazing kids. He is a former Radio DJ, Technology Reviewer, GameStop Manager, Apple Store Expert, and the author of The Family Technology Plan. You can contact Tony at www.familytechnologyplan.com.

For more on technology, click on the post below:

What is “Among Us?” What Parents and Leaders Need to Know

Technology Series: Help Parents Learn About Technology One Post At A Time!

How To Use TIKTOK To Connect With Kids

What is Marco Polo? A Tutorial to Explain How the App Works

Help Parents Learn How to Use Apple’s ScreenTime App

How To Monitor Technology: A Review on How to Use Bark

A Parent’s Guide to Texting

What Is Snapchat and How to Use It

M2P Members, pick up your digital content for parents in the Toolbox: Technology.

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