If your student is a gamer, there’s a good chance they’re on the Discord chat app. Discord is a free voice, video, and text chat app that boasts more than 250 million users. Like many chat apps, Discord doesn’t put out dangerous content, but some people who use it might. If your student is connecting with random people on Discord, they’re putting themselves at risk of coming across inappropriate content and conversations.
This app guide explains the dangers of Discord and what parents can do to make the app safer for students.
What is the Discord chat app?
- Discord is a free voice, video, and text chat app
- Users can livestream games and internet videos
- Discord started as an app for gamers, but it has branched out to become a general use platform where users chat about various topics
- Users can access the app via their internet browser, PC, or mobile device
Why students like Discord
- Users playing the same game can set up Discord groups to communicate during live gameplay (they can continue to communicate, even when they aren’t playing)
- Users can send videos, photos, GIFs, text, and music through the app
- Discord users can connect with others by:
- Joining a public group, called a server (there are 100,000+ public servers with topics ranging from games to studying to sexuality)
- Joining a private server someone invited them to
- Creating their own private server and inviting friends
- Sending and receiving one-on-one private messages
Where is the Discord chat app available?
- Apple App Store Rating: 12+
- Google Play Rating: T (Teen)
- Internet Browser, PC
- Developer’s Website: Discord (Based in USA, Owned by Discord Inc.)
- Terms of Service
Why should parents care?
- Some servers on the app that host 100,000+ members, although most are limited to 10 users
- Cyberbully can be an issue when players belittle other players or exclude friends from group chats
- Students can easily come across abusive language in chats
- Users must confirm that they are 18+ to view content tagged NSFW (not safe for work). However, there is no age verification process
- Anyone can create a group chat server and some parents report that it can be easy for strangers to message students through the app
- It can also be easy for students to hide private messages
- The app is free, but in-app upgrades are available
Discord chat app in the news
From what I’ve seen, users who wish to engage in harassment, raid servers, or bombard chats and users with child pornography suffer no lasting repercussions for doing so.Gizmodo
[One suspect] was using the app, Discord, to upload and share child pornography… He told authorities the user profile that had the image [a female under the age of 10 showing her genitals] was his and he had uploaded it to a chat group in Discord that trades child pornography.KAGS-TV
In case you haven’t heard of it, there’s plenty of good, but also a lot of bad and ugly. How ugly? Like, 9/11 jokes, racist memes and kids telling each other, ‘Go kill yourself.’Wall Street Journal
What parents say about Discord
Free Reign ADULT CONTENT – “Our son was exposed to explicit sexual content, including videos, pictures, chats and video chats. There are also groups that are not gaming related and may have negative impacts on your children. Again, access to adult orientated topics. Many of the messages were from people seeking help, talking about suicide, doing drugs, cutting etc.“
Not for young teens or tweens – “As with any social app or site, there is no way to prove the person your kid is chatting with is actually another teen, adult, or online predator. My daughter used the site with Minecraft and most of the discussions did not center around gameplay, instead, it was focused on transgender and sexual topics – and she was easily influenced by these online friends. My advice – be very plugged into the content being discussed by your kids, not only on Discord, but all social media platforms.“
Source: Common Sense Media
What can parents do?
- Ask your student who they hang out with on Discord and what they talk about
- Remind your children that it’s impossible to know if someone is who they say they are online and on apps like Discord
- Download Discord and use it yourself before deciding if it’s safe for your family
- Teach your children that anyone can share “anonymous” content publicly
- Teach your student to tell you about, then report, any dangerous or illegal content they come across (including porn or content that glorifies or promotes self-harm)
- Tell your students not to share personal information or to click on links or download files that look suspicious
Use in-app settings to keep students safe
Discord launched a new Safety Center in 2020 that guides parents through the safety settings
- Friend request settings:
- There are 3 choices: Everyone, Friends of Friends, Server Members
- If you don’t want your students to get ANY friend requests, you can deselect all three options
- Direct messages (DM) settings:
- You can toggle Allow direct messages from server members to block DMs from users in a server who aren’t on your friends list
- If you joined any servers prior to turning this off, you must adjust your DM settings individually for each server
- To set an explicit content filter for direct messages:
- Go to User Settings, select Privacy & Safety and select:
- Keep me safe – Images and videos in all direct messages are scanned by Discord and explicit content is blocked
- My friends are nice – All direct messages sent by users who are not on your Friends List are scanned and explicit content is blocked
- Do not scan – With this setting, none of the direct messages you receive will be scanned or blocked for explicit content
It’s important for parents to use Discord’s in-app security settings, but not to rely solely on them to keep your students safe. Your best bet for keeping students safe on the Discord chat app is keeping an open dialogue about what they’re doing and who they’re talking to.