What Parents Need to Know About Discord

If you or your teen is into gaming, you’ve probably at least heard of Discord, even if you haven’t used it yourself. This is another way for teens to connect with their friends and chat about games or other topics through private or public servers, one-to-one messages, or group chats. But, as with any such social network, they can also come across mature topics, offensive language, cyber bullying, and other inappropriate content.

What is Discord?

Before we talk about how best to protect your teenager from outright predators and garden assholes, let’s start with some basics. Discord is a free voice, video and text chat application for people ages 13 and older who can hang out and chat with their friends. It is widely used by gamers as a way to communicate in real time while playing video games together, but it can be used to discuss almost any topic. Discord describes itself as follows :

People use Discord on a daily basis to talk about many things, from art projects and family travel to homework and mental health support. It is home to communities of all sizes, but is most often used by small and active groups of people who socialize regularly.

The vast majority of servers are private, open by invitation only, where groups of friends and communities can stay connected and hang out together. There are also larger and more open communities, usually centered around specific topics, such as popular games like Minecraft and Fortnite. All conversations are subscription-based, so people have complete control over who they interact with and what their Discord experience is.

“Servers” are basically places where people can gather to communicate. There are large public servers, but anyone can also create their own free private server and invite their friends to join. Each server can have many voice and text channels for different topics and with different rules to follow. For example, a server dedicated to helping with homework might have a “general chat” channel as well as channels for each topic.

Privacy and security features

Discord does not have strict parental control features; Your teen will be able to view and change their account settings simply by going to User Settings> Privacy & Security . However, in this section, you have several options related to content filters and how other users can interact with them.

The first thing you need to do is go to User Settings> Privacy & Security and then select Keep Me Safe at the top, which Discord says will “automatically scan and delete the direct messages you receive. which contain explicit media content ”. Other options are “My friends are cute”, which means messages sent from approved friends will not be scanned, and “Do not scan”, which you definitely do not want.

Other than that, there are several options related to who can request to be friends with a user, who can send them direct messages, and who can join them in the game. The default settings allow for maximum contact with the widest possible range of people, so you probably want to block this at least to some extent, so that not everyone can add them as friends, and limit the range of people who can send them private messages. By default, whenever a user joins the server with someone else, they can send them direct messages, but you can restrict it to only come from people on your teen’s friends list. This is especially important if they are joining larger public servers.

As with most social networks, you can also block or disable users who troll or start to cause inconvenience. Right-clicking on a profile name will open a menu with options, including blocking them. Discord also includes a form for parents to report users and issues on behalf of their teen, without parents needing a Discord account themselves.

Discord also states that “adult content must be posted on a channel marked ‘Not Safe for Work’ (NSFW), which cannot be accessed by users under the age of 18.” But as Common Sense Media points out:

Since all of this is user-generated, there is a lot of inappropriate content such as profanity, graphic language and images (although it is entirely possible to belong to a group that prohibits this). Discord also has NSFW channels and servers that require users to be at least 18 years of age to join (but that’s easy to go through with verification).

And it’s probably not surprising that Discord is known for its dark side, as reported by the Wall Street Journal :

Jack Friedman, a 13-year-old from Long Island, NY, goes to Discord every day to chat with friends while playing Fortnite or Minecraft. Jack was both a target and a bully. One day, players who joined Jack’s server killed his Minecraft character and stole all of his items. In retaliation, he and his friends discussed the violators and banned them.

“I will be on these servers where people change their names to ISIS and joke about 9/11,” he said, adding that 9/11 memes are very popular. “I was on the same server, a guy from Germany joined us, and people were joking about the Holocaust. He got angry and left. “

Ultimately, Common Sense Media recommends the app for people ages 13 and up, especially if teenagers use it in the safest way (only accepting friend requests and participating in private servers with people they already know).

Discuss all this with your teenager.

As I mentioned, there is no parental control on Discord that allows you to implement and block any of these restrictions. Your teen can open the entire backup immediately as soon as you turn your back and log into the public servers if they want to. So if you allow them to use the app, it’s important to talk to your teen about online safety, privacy, cyberbullying and how these settings help them stay safe and comfortable.

Reiterate that they should only accept friend requests from people they know and trust and should block anyone who bothers them. Finally, don’t let them use the app if they’re under 13, and make sure they include their real birthday when they create their profile.


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