What Parents Should Know About Discord

by Screen Time Team on 14/10/2020

Sometimes, all you need to know about an app is its name. Discord, the popular chat app for gamers, would seem to fit that bit. Here’s what parents should know about the popular chat app.

What Is Discord?

Discord is a free chat app supporting text, voice, and video chat. It first became popular in the online gamer community, as it was relatively powerful and had lots of free features, and was an effective replacement for in-game tools offering similar services. It also allowed for more privacy and flexibility and can be easily integrated into game streaming platforms such as Twitch.

Since then, Discord has slowly become more popular elsewhere as a communication and chatting tool. Since it’s “freeware,” it’s available on most internet platforms, including through browsers. This means blocking it completely will generally require parental control software across platforms.

How Does Discord Work?

Discord resembles the IRC (internet relay chat) protocol in how it functions. Users can create servers, and channels within those servers. The visibility and access to those servers are completely controlled by the user who creates them. Channels can be age-gated by being marked “not safe for work,” but Discord has no strict criteria for what those channels can and can’t feature, outside of illegal content.

This means that, for example, a server that seems perfectly normal may have “secret” channels known only to the user and those they give access to. This has been a controversial feature for Discord for years and is one of the key points of concern about the software.

Young teen wearing headphones and holding a game controller.

Should Kids Use Discord?

Discord has very little enforcement and generally relies on its users to “self-police” bad behavior. The company, to its credit, does have transparency reports that openly discuss bullying, abuse, and other inappropriate behavior that it makes available to the broader userbase, which can help parents better determine whether they want kids on Discord.

Enforcement actions depend heavily on the situation, from removing content to shutting down servers on the network. Enforcement is at the discretion of Discord. One feature that is useful is that every user has a unique four-digit identifier, called a “discriminator”, tied to their username so that the blocking feature removes them across the entire app. You won’t be able to see them or their message in any server.

If your kids want to use Discord, take the following steps:

  • Set strict time limits, enforced by parental control software.
  • Tie use to specific games or services; for example, if they want to play with friends on a specific game, they should only be on that server.
  • Limit access to one device or set of devices.
  • Ask to look at the servers they want to join and the content available on them.
  • Discuss how to counteract cruel and predatory behaviors such as bullying and online grooming.
  • Set limits on how many servers they can be at one time.
  • Ensure they know how to block users and have them come to you if someone is being rude.

Protecting kids when they’re gaming online, or on the internet in general, requires strong communication and effective parental control software. To learn more, contact us.

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