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Discord Safety Guide: What Parents, Educators, & Students Need to Know

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March 14, 2024

Unlock this lesson to learn what you can do to keep kids safe on Discord and other chat apps

This safety guide will help parents learn:

  • Why chatting online with strangers is so popular with students
  • Why parents should care about chatting online
  • Tips to keep student safe while using Discord and other chat apps

Log in or join the VIP membership today to view all SmartSocial.com resources about chatting online with strangers!

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Discord Safety Guide: What Parents, Educators, & Students Need to Know

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Many students want to chat online with their friends and with others who have similar hobbies, such as video games. The Discord app and website make that possible, but also create opportunities for students to see unwanted content or have contact with strangers. Like many chat apps, the company Discord doesn’t put out dangerous content itself, but users may target other users with harmful images and direct messages. If your student’s Discord discussions allow random people to join, there’s a good chance they may come across something inappropriate.

Educators and parents:

Guide your students' reflection and discussion with this student worksheet. (Log in to your Google account and select File-->Make a Copy)

Parent training video

Is Discord Safe?

  • Users can join and participate in public communities that anyone can follow or participate in or users can join “private spaces” that can be seen only by other members
  • ~Direct communication with strangers can exist in either type of space
  • Cyberbullying can be an issue when users belittle other users or exclude friends from group chats and students can easily come across abusive language in chats
  • All age-restricted content is banned for accounts under 18 years old BUT there is no age verification process when signing up for Discord. In other words, someone can pose as a 13 year old kid, and really be 48 years old

What is Discord?

Discord is a place dedicated to talking and hanging out with your friends, family, and communities.  Millions of diverse servers live on Discord, from small groups of your closest friends to huge communities where thousands connect over shared interests.” - Discord 
  • Discord is an app and website that connects millions of users via voice, video, and text chats based on similar interests. It started as an app for gamers, but it has branched out to become a general use platform where users can find Discord servers covering any topic
  • The site is made up of different servers which are essentially chat rooms that users can either join, create, or moderate, based on various different topics or interests. The vast majority of the app's usage is for private servers. Users may only enter these servers through a personal invite from someone inside the server.
  • Users can upgrade to Discord Nitro which gives users extra perks like personalized emojis and larger file uploads
  • Discord markets itself as “a place where everyone can be themselves,” which often encourages students to make risky decisions they might not normally make (Discord Safety)

What is Discord rated?

  • Based in the USA, owned by Discord Inc.
  • Discord is available for download on both Android and iOS mobile devices
  • It works with almost all desktop web browsers 
  • Apple App Store Rating: 17+ 
  • Google Play Rating: T (for Teen)

What can parents do?

  • Download Discord and use it yourself, as a parent. Ask your student to show you how to use it so you can try it out yourself before deciding if it is safe for your family
  • Help your student set up the important privacy settings
  • As a family talk about how “anonymous” content can easily be shared publicly and how predators piece information together to discover your real identity
  • Assure your students that they can come to you if they see or experience anything that doesn’t seem right, or makes them uncomfortable on Discord, a video game, or in any app or conversation
  • ~Follow the Discord reporting process for any dangerous or illegal content they come across (including porn or content that glorifies or promotes self-harm)
  • Help your student make a plan for what to do if they are sent links, files, inappropriate content, or asked to share images, and how to know if they are suspicious

Why do students like Discord?

  • While playing video games like Minecraft or Roblox, users can setup and share Discord groups/Discord servers to communicate with other players during the live gameplay, then continue to have conversations (even when they aren’t playing)
  • Even non-gamers can start private servers or discussions to gather others around a topic to chat
  • Users can share images, videos, audio, GIFs, texts, and music through the site and can chat through texting, voice calls, or video calls
  • A user account is “pseudonymous” meaning beyond a self-reported age verification when signing up and the user’s email address or phone number, users are anonymous
  • Discord users can connect with others by:
  • ~Joining a public group called a server (there are 100,000+ public Discord servers with topics ranging from games and studying to sexuality)
  • ~Joining a private Discord server they were invited to through Discord or any other source outside the app (like chat in another game)
  • ~Create their own private server and invite their friends
  • ~Send and receive one-on-one direct messages

Bullying on Discord

  • Bullying can be a problem on Discord, just as it is on other social media apps
  • Harassment and bullying is the most common community violation reported on Discord and "hateful conduct" is the third most common violation
  • Users can report abusive behavior to Discord by right clicking on the message they want to report and selecting "report message"
  • If students receive a violent threat, Discord recommends contacting local law enforcement

Discord in the news

Discord has been a hub for communities devoted to the creation of generative AI images and has hosted several integrations that allow users to generate them. Sexually themed images are frequently created on those servers. - CNBC News
John Shehan, the senior vice president of NCMEC, said his organization has seen “explosive growth” of child sexual abuse material and exploitation on Discord. NCMEC operates the United States’ government-supported tipline that receives complaints and reports about child sex abuse and associated activity online. Discord has taken some steps to address child abuse and CSAM on its platform. The company said in a transparency report that it disabled 37,102 accounts for child safety violations in the last quarter of 2022. - NBC News

Discord Username Updates

  • Since Discord’s beginning, multiple gamers could have the same username. To decipher who was who, they had a four-digit discriminator following their username 
  • ~Because many users had the same username, almost half of all friend requests fail to connect the user with the person they wanted to match with or users thought they were adding their friend when in reality they were matching with a stranger 
  • Starting in March 2023, users were able to update their username in accordance to the timeline they created their original username and Discord account

Discord Community Guidelines

“Our Community Guidelines ensure everyone finds belonging, but not at the expense of anyone else.” - Discord
  • Discord updated its terms of service and Community Guidelines in March 2023 to help make Discord a safer place for everyone (Source: Discord blog)
  • “As Discord has evolved, it’s become clear that not all spaces on Discord are the same.” (Source: Discord Blog)
  • Discord says they are working to help users clarify the difference between public and private spaces and how to appropriately use each
  • The Discord Trust & Safety team says they review reports by other users and moderators and may issue warnings, remove inappropriate content, suspend/remove accounts, and potentially report to local law enforcement.
  • Guidelines include topics such as:

Respect Each Other

  • ~Covers topics like harassment, hate speech, threats of violence or harm to others, pornographic or sexually suggestive content, promotion of suicide or self-harm, depiction of excessive violence, and more

Be Honest

  • ~Covers misleading or false information or the distribution of content about hacking, pirated content, or stolen goods

Respect Discord

  • ~Covers topics such as spam and disrupting other people’s experience, promotion of illegal activities or dangerous behavior, and more

Important Privacy Settings

As always, use a secure password and and set up two-factor authentication (your family can consider using a password manager like Dashlane that will create and store passwords for you)

Image from Discord

“Safe” direct messaging

  • From the settings menu, tap “Privacy & Safety”
  • Select “Keep me safe” for Discord to automatically scan and delete direct messages that you receive that contain explicit content
  • Turn off “Allow direct messages from server members”
  • Scroll down and turn off “Sync Contacts”
  • Turn off Discovery Permissions for “Phone Number” and “Email”

Friend request settings

Consider who can send you a direct message

Friend requests from Discord
  • From the settings menu, tap “Friend Requests”
  • “Who can add you as a friend?” 
  • 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

Safety tips for adding friends

  • On the Add Friend screen, don’t use “Find your friends,” which syncs your contacts from your phone
  • Don’t use “Nearby scan,” which gives the app permission to use Bluetooth and WiFi to find friends physically near you. This makes your location available for others to see as well

How to report behavior on Discord 

  • Quick enforcement of the Discord community guidelines is dependent on users finding the infractions, users reporting the violations, and the safety team reviewing and taking action
  • Discord requires the Message Link in a report to investigate the issue
  • If a user sees an infraction on Discord on the website:
  • ~Right click on the inappropriate message and click “Copy the Message Link” 
  • ~Click “Submit a request” at the top of the Help Center page or go to https://dis.gd/request and fill out the  form selecting Trust & Safety as the subject 
  • If a user wants to make a report from the app:
  • ~Tap and hold the message to bring up the menu
  • ~Tap “Select message” and fill in the report information
  • Blocking another user will remove them from your friends list and they will no longer be able to DM you.  Old direct messages will remain until you delete them, but new direct messages they attempt to send you will be hidden
  • Tap Friends at the bottom menu
  • Find the user and tap on their username
  • Tap the three dots in the upper right corner
  • Select “Block"

How to report a user

Trust & Safety on Discord
  • If a user continually bullies or sends you unwanted messages, or they create new accounts after you have blocked them, Discord says you may report them to the Trust & Safety team
  • From settings menu, scroll down and tap “Support”
  • It will take you to the Discord website.  Tap the three lines at the top
  • Select “Submit a request”
  • Under “What can we help you with?” select “Trust & Safety”
  • Select what type of report you want to make then fill in the description to make the report

Tips for students to chat online safely

  • Never share personal information, even if you think you are talking to someone your own age or from your school
  • ~Even if your school sports team (for example) uses Discord to keep in touch, don’t share specific details about where and when you’ll all be somewhere, especially at individuals' houses
  • ~If your group needs a way to share this information, talk with your advisors about more secure methods to communicate essential group information
  • Even though your account is “anonymous” remember that companies like Discord must always cooperate with law enforcement for any evidence of illegal activity and they often hand over a real identity to officers
  • Set all privacy settings within the app or website that will limit who can contact you
  • Make sure that any location sharing settings are turned off
  • Don’t go to other apps with people you meet online

Conclusion

Discord is an engaging way for students to interact with their friends outside of the classroom. It’s important for parents to use and be aware of Discord’s in-app security settings, but not to rely solely on them to keep your students safe. Keeping an open dialogue about what they’re doing and who they’re talking to on Discord or any app is your best bet for keeping them safe.

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Superintendents, Directors and Principals: Request a partnership on this page to unlock our resources for your whole community.

Unlock this lesson to learn what you can do to keep kids safe on Discord and other chat apps

This safety guide will help parents learn:

  • Why chatting online with strangers is so popular with students
  • Why parents should care about chatting online
  • Tips to keep student safe while using Discord and other chat apps

Log in or join the VIP membership today to view all SmartSocial.com resources about chatting online with strangers!

Become a member or log in to learn more on this topic

Superintendents, Directors and Principals: Request a partnership on this page to unlock our resources for your whole community.
Quotation marks

This is great info, thanks for giving me some ideas on how to start a dialogue with my teen!

StarStarStarStarStar

Sharon M.

Parent VIP Member

Quotation marks

Josh's presentation about social media was unbelievably fantastic. Our students learned so much about what kids should and shouldn't be doing. The fact that it is such a thoughtful process made it all worthwhile.

StarStarStarStarStar

Director of College Advising

Educator Webinar Attendee

Quotation marks

This webinar is a very helpful eye-opener on the apps that are popular with my students.

StarStarStarStarStar

Irene C.

Educator Webinar Attendee

Learn more

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