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Is Discord safe for kids? App Safety Guide for parents

by | Oct 19, 2020 | App safety & reviews

To help make your digital parenting decisions easier, and to help keep kids safe online, we’ve put together this Safety Guide to Discord. Here’s everything parents need to know about Discord to help your kids better navigate one of the latest must-have social apps.

Discord ratings

Qustodio: 13+ when DMs are blocked for people outside friend group, else 18+

Apple: 12+

Android: Parental Guidance

Common Sense: 13+

What is Discord?

Founded in 2015, Discord is a real-time chat platform originally designed to make it easier for gamers to talk to each other while playing video games.

Since then, Discord has gone mainstream, attracting over 300 million registered users – ranging from Alt-Right protesters, bullies and data thieves to the Boy Scouts, teachers and book clubs. With such a diverse crowd, it’s no wonder parents have a hard time knowing what to do about this relatively new app.

Qustodio’s Safety Guide to Discord

With elements of Snapchat, Reddit, and Epic, and a Slack-like dashboard, Discord is an informal, real-time, communication and social media app for just about anything from talking about games with other players while you play (the app’s original function) to organizing clubs, to giving virtual lessons, to just bonding and hanging out with other people in communities (e.g. dog lovers, kale salad aficionados, amateur hip-hop fans, etc.).

While not quite a household name, Discord has become a must for influencers, YouTubers, and Instagramers who want an easier way than via traditional social media channels to connect with their community. It’s also attractive for kids and teens who want to fly under the radar of parents who are not familiar with the Discord app yet!

Why do kids and teens love Discord?

For starters, kids and teens love that Discord is free. To amplify their profile, they will have to pay a ‘Nitro’ subscription (currently $9.99/mo.), but the basics don’t cost them anything. Users like setting up ‘servers’ where they can just hangout and chat with other people who love whatever they love, be it a game, a club or a cat. Kids who play video games love it because they can see when their friends are online and play together with video chat and screen sharing, sort of like a “Skype for gamers.”

Is Discord safe for kids & teens?

What are the dangers of Discord? Discord was designed for adults. And while its terms and conditions require users to be 13+ and server owners are required to put an 18+ warning on servers with NSFW (not safe or suitable for work) or unsuitable content, it’s relatively easy for kids to get access. Once in the app, it’s possible for your child to encounter racism, vulgar talk, bullying, online predators and so on, making Discord unsafe for younger children and really only appropriate for a mature teenager with ‘digital resilience’, the know-how on both what to avoid online and how to react properly if they encounter digital threats.

How can I make Discord safer for my child or teen?

  • Warn your child about online predators. Sexual predators and data thieves are increasingly finding victims on social platform chats. They tend to strike up conversations designed to build up trust through pity or self-loathing. They may eventually ask for nude photos or ask for private information. Make sure your child knows it is not their fault if this happens to them and that they should report it immediately to their parents. Parents should then screen capture any evidence and notify both Discord and their local police.
  • Block Discord for children under 13. How old should your child be to have Discord? There is really no reason a child under 13 should be using this app. A parental control or parental monitoring app like Qustodio makes it really easy to consistently block the apps across devices. If you decide to allow your child to use Discord, make sure to always be there with them to supervise their activity.
  • Make sure you know which server groups your child is part of on Discord. And make sure those groups have online safety protocols like blocked PM/DM (Private Messages/Direct Messages) between users on the server and NSFW content monitoring.
  • Do not allow DMs (direct messages) from strangers. Use the improved Discord Privacy Settings to set up DMs just with friends or in their words “block DMs (Direct Messages) from users in that server that isn’t on your friend’s list.” Do not confuse this setting with the ‘My Friends are Nice’ setting which scans messages sent by users who are not friends, but does not block their messages, just the explicit content it detects. It’s better to scan messages from everyone (a setting Discord calls “Keep me Safe”) even though you will also be restricting messages to just friends.
  • Block users who make your child feel uncomfortable (the message history will remain in case you need it as evidence  later.) We recommend blocking the app entirely if your child has been bullied or approached by an online predator.

Qustodio’s final advice on Discord

Is Discord safe? Discord is a true reflection of society, the good and the bad. Like nearly all social media, game and communication apps, Discord is riskiest when it exposes your child to strangers who do not fit your family’s values, are not age appropriate or are predators. For these reasons we recommend parents block Discord and do not allow children under 13 to use it. Discord is fine for teens when the DM security is set to allow friends only