What is Discord and is it appropriate for my child?
Here are 5 FACTS every parent needs to know about Discord:
#1 What it is
Discord is a free voice, video and text chat app for teens and adults ages 13 and up. Discord is used to talk to your friends while playing video games and it’s also useful for creating places where people can congregate, meet up to find other players, and socialize. It has been considered a cross between Sykpe (for it’s video chat features) and Reddit (for it’s discussion boards).
Discord is accessible via a PC, browser, or mobile phone.
It also connects to other apps, like YouTube and Spotify, to “enhance” the experience.
#2 Servers = Chat Rooms
Discord users can join already-organized groups with an invitation or they can establish their own server and invite others. Servers can be either public (anyone can join) or private (invite-only). Because you can be a member of multiple servers at one time, this makes Discord a hub of social activity.
Creating a Discord server yourself provides many benefits. You can configure your server by setting up different roles for members (assigning other administrators and moderators) or by creating a special role for your most active members.
There are thousands of different Discord servers, each one dedicated to a different topic. While the majority of servers are dedicated to video games, Discord’s growing popularity has drawn in many different genres.
To find public servers to join, you can Google “[insert topic here] Discord server” to find a verified or open server. You can also use Discord’s own search engine, but be aware that it doesn’t track all servers, only the most popular ones. Many popular streamers and content creators will also have public invitation codes posted on their Twitch or YouTube channels.
Each server can be broken down further into “channels” which are small spaces for discussions on specific topics (as opposed to one large forum). Channels come in text and voice versions, to further make them easier to use. You can also make individual channels on your server private, so only people who are invited into those rooms can use them.
Once in the chat room they can communicate by voice, text, or video. They can also message each other individually or in group chats with up to ten other friends.
#3 Direct Messaging
Similar to any other app dedicated to online communication, Discord encourages making friends. You can create a list of “friends” who use the app that you can contact directly outside of any servers, thus, direct messaging.
You can add friends to your list is by finding their names in servers you’ve already joined. Right-clicking on a user name to “Add Friend” will send a friend request to that user. You can add them by clicking on that username to get to their profile, then “Add Friend”. Another way to add friends is by using their exact username and 4-digit Discord tag, which they would need to give to you. Once you have a list of friends, you can easily begin messaging them or request a video or voice chat.
Additionally, you can also add GIFs, images, and emojis into chats.
One key fact to acknowledge is that there is NO MODERATION within these chats. Those with intent to share inappropriate content or to prey upon/target/groom children using the app can do so easily, creating new servers and private chats.
Discord offers a few ways to keep your account safer. You can block unwanted messages and friend requests under the Privacy & Safety settings. Here, you can also protect against explicit content. Discord categorizes this with three options: “Keep me safe” (scan direct messages from everyone), “I like my friends” (scan direct messages from everyone unless they are a friend), and “I live on the edge” (Turn this off. Don’t scan anything. Go straight to the dark side.)
Discord’s Community Guidelines make explicitly clear that sharing content that is illegal, harassing, inhumane, predatory, pornographic, bullying, etc. in nature will remove or delete their account. Before that happens, however, users must report the content.
They also require that anyone creating a server that contains content inappropriate for those under 18 years old label it as “NSFW” (Not Safe For Work).
Reporting inappropriate content requires: Message Link,. User ID, and Server ID (if applicable). These aren’t always readily available, which makes reporting content cumbersome. Once you do have these you can send them to the Discord Trust & Safety Team for review.
#5 Parental Controls & Ratings
Discord’s parental controls are limited to those described above for Direct Messaging. They are definitely better than nothing but they are not password or pin protected so a motivated child could easily modify them.
App Store: 12+
Google Play: T (Teen)
Brave Parenting: 15+
Perhaps the most concerning aspect of Discord is it’s open stage for predatory activity. In December of 2019, the New York Times reported in depth on how online chat apps (specifically Discord) are hunting grounds for sexual predators. Another news site reported in 2019 about the “underground” dating channels that are attracting predators – some of which specifically target teens under 18.
It is true of ALL social media apps: where there are kids and private communication tools, there are predators. Acknowledge, discuss, and plan around this before your child begins using Discord. Parents must require open communication and accountability regarding the child’s Discord activity. Set privacy settings with the expectation the child cannot alter them, and servers approved by a parent before joining. Always time limits for your child’s daily screen time.
When Discord use is under wise supervision, in public spaces of the home, and in moderation, 15 year-olds and up could use this app/website for communication.
We highly recommend using Bark to monitor your child’s Discord account (and any other social media they have). Bark reports all inappropriate/dangerous content back to you, giving tremendous peace of mind.