If your teen loves gaming, they most likely know about Discord. It’s a free voice, video, and text chat app that was created to bring gamers together. Discord can be used on PC, browser, or mobile phone. There gamers can join a chat they’ve been invited to or they can create private servers.
What makes Discord unique from other messaging apps is users can both play and discuss games with their friends by voice, text, or video. They can also message each other individually or in group chats with up to 10 other friends. Discord has features that really fit the needs of those who love online gaming.
Many parents now know the name Discord even if they aren’t quite sure what Discord really is. It’s been rapidly growing since it launched in 2015 and has now accrued over 250,000 users. Parents, that’s as many users as Fortnite! And, it’s reported that 14 million of these users are daily active users.
Discord really got a bump when a popular video game streamer named Ninja played Fortnite with hip hop artist Drake. Ninja was giving Drake pointers by phone but it wasn’t working. So, Ninja offered to show Drake how to use Discord. Because this was all taking place on Twitch, everyone viewing the live stream (and replays) has seen how to install and use Discord.
But, what do you really need to know about Discord?
What Parents Need to Know About Discord
What is the age requirement for Discord?
According to Discord’s Terms of Service, users must be at least thirteen (13) years old to use the service. Teens between 13 and the age of majority in their jurisdiction need to make sure their legal guardian has reviewed and agrees to these Discord terms before registering for an account. And parents for those minors must also accept the TOS on their behalf.
What do I do if my teen under 17 opens a Discord account without my permission?
There is an important clause in the age requirement terms above. It states minors must have parental consent. Parents, this is important. It means if your child sets up a Discord account without your permission or knowledge you have the right to have that account removed and deleted. To do so, contact support
However, please understand if your teen created a server on Discord, they need to either delete the server or transfer ownership before their account can be deleted. So, talk to your teen about their account and walk through closing it together. Discuss the reasons for closing their Discord account.
It’s not going to be an easy conversation. But it’s going to be important to keep talking to your teen. It’s incredibly easy for them to create another Discord account and simply uninstall and reinstall the app to hide it. The goal is always to communicate about technology issues with your teen. So, continue to talk and listen to your teen…even when it’s tough.
What Type of Content Can Users Expect to See on Discord?
Discord isn’t like Instagram or Snapchat where users create an account and then just begin looking at content or creating their own. On Discord, users create an account. They can join a chat by invitation. Or, they can create private servers and invite their friends to play and discuss games by voice, text, or video. They can also message each other individually or in group chats with up to 10 other friends.
Most of the conversations revolve around gaming. That’s the draw of Discord. It’s the thing users have in common–a love of gaming. So, there are servers for a variety of games.
While a love of gaming is the biggest commonality among users, you’ll also find plenty of other content on Discord. There are servers for things like science, cosplay, and book club. There are also servers tagged as NSFW. These servers are noted as 18+. And, users do get an NSFW notice before joining.
Keep in mind users, not Discord, create the servers available. In other words, the content available is driven by the users. The ability to create your own server is what users love about Discord. This feature means teens can create a private server for their friends. Unfortunately, this also means a user can create a NSFW server where their friends share porn.
Are Privacy Options Available for Accounts on Discord?
Yes! And I would definitely recommend teens select the “Keep Me Safe” Privacy & Safety level. These settings can ensure messages are scanned for NSFW content. You will need to have some level of trust built with your teen as there are no parental controls within the app which prevent your teen from making changes to the setting.
If your teen wants to create a safe server to chat and game with friends, they can set a verification level and turn on explicit content filtering.
Can you block or report inappropriate content and users?
You can block a user. You can also report a user or message. But you can’t do this if you delete the message. And, you don’t report the user by their username. Discord does provide step by step instructions for properly reporting issues and has done a better job of providing this information than many other platforms. Users also have a great deal of control when it comes to their privacy settings on Discord.
Are In-App Purchases Available?
Why Do Teens Want to Download Discord?
If your teen loves gaming, chances are they are drawn to Discord. Discord is free and that price point works for most teens. But just because it’s free doesn’t mean it’s a low-grade app. Discord has spent time and money making a great platform where teens love hanging out. At Discord they can connect and chat with their friends who love gaming. And, they can meet others who share their same love.
Discord isn’t just texting. And, it’s not anything like Snapchat or Instagram. Here teens can create servers and invite just those they want, so they can talk solely about gaming. Think of it as going to any hobby type club where friends join around a shared passion.
Discord also shows you when your friends are online. This makes it easy to game online with them. As parents, we want our kids to be connecting with others. Discord has brought community to the virtual space and done it in a way teens love. It feels natural to them.
Should I Let My Teen Download Discord?
I’ve said before I rarely cast a “yes” or “no” net over an app. I think it’s generally more helpful to give you detailed information on the apps popular with teens. You are the parent and the one who is communicating with your teen. You know their heart. Apps are tools we use. We can use them wisely or we can use them foolishly.
Here are a few features available on Discord you should know about and discuss with your teen.
The levels of communication are what make Discord great. But, it’s always what makes it hard to understand if you are a parent not using the app. Servers are like various clubs. You can join a club that is open. Some servers (clubs) are private. So, if you search for Fortnite you most likely won’t see every server because many of these are private (invite only).
Within servers there are channels. Think of this as you would attend a book club. The group as a whole discusses the book. But sometimes a conversation between two or more people on a varying topic will take place. You are still at book club, just discussing a science project that’s due or the weather. Channels within servers are places for this.
And sometimes, you carry on a conversation one-on-one with a person you met at book club. These can take place via Direct Message on Discord. Understanding the levels of communication and how this mimics our conversations in a physical space can help us better understand how to discuss privacy and online safety with our teens without overreacting.
Discord’s Community Guidelines specifically ban child pornography and revenge porn. But, porn outside these specifications is allowed if the server is tagged NSFW. Because servers are created by users, it means Discord will struggle to enforce its policies.
In 2018 it was found that Discord did in fact have some servers for circulating revenge porn. So, although they have Community Guidelines in place, policing thousands of servers and channels is proving to be a task they can’t do alone. It’s going to take users within the community to begin reporting eye-ball peeling, offensive content. Discord does a good job of putting up a warning stating a server is NSFW and letting users know they must be 18+ to join the group. You’ll need to know and understand if this is going to be a temptation for your teen.
Strong, emotionally charged language is something more commonly seen on gaming platforms. There is trash talk. And, there is speech which is full of hatred as well. Does your teen know how to avoid groups online where this type of speech is prevalent?
Sex, drugs, and alcohol
All these topics are discussed on various servers. As with most teen and adult groups, the advice your teen gets on these topics is going to vary. As a rule of thumb, it’s often encouraged and glorified online. Be sure you talk to your teens about the dangers of sexting. And talk with them openly about drug and alcohol consumption.
It sounds like you are saying “No” to Discord
Nope. Not at all. In fact, I have a young adult child who loves Discord. That child has helped set up safe servers for younger kids. I actually think Discord can be a great team-building app for families who use it properly. I just think parents should know and understand how the app works. And, we should know and understand who our teens are friends with online just like we want to know their friends at school or soccer.
Did I miss anything? What do you think teens and parents should know about Discord?
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