Discord App Update – Back in the News

Last year, I published an app review on the insanely popular social media/gamer platform Discord. This app has continued to grow in its membership and popularity since then, and warrants an update, especially in light of some recent news.

On January 16, 2019, 6 men and one woman arrested in St. Pete, Texas, and accused of sexually exploiting two teens, met at least one of them on Discord.

Discord is a free voice, video, and text chat app for teens and adults ages 13 and up. If your kid is a gamer, they are likely to have this app. It is intended for teens to chat about their games and create a talk-group when they are playing a coop game. Teens can access Discord via their PC, browser, or mobile phone. Once there, they can join a chat they’ve been invited to, 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 ten other friends.

Teens love to talk (or brag) about their gaming exploits on games such as Fortnight or Pokemon. Discord is the app that allows them to connect with friends (or strangers) about their favorite pastime. They share triumphs, defeats, and most importantly, tips and tricks to be better players. I think you can see how this app is so popular and potentially dangerous.

Should my child have this app?

The answer is, maybe. The minimum age to have an account is 13-years-old. If your child is under 13, allowing them to have it before the required age sends the wrong message. If your child is at least 13 and you think they have the maturity to navigate the issues we have already identified, then you should give them very clear expectations on using this app. Here are some actionable steps to help keep you child safe on this and other similar apps.

  1. Set up the parental controls as described on Discord’s site.
  2. Your child will inevitably talk to someone they don’t know. This may be a child, just like yours, that is looking to talk about the best way to win a Fortnite match, or it could be an adult who is fishing for a child to “talk” to him. This should be central to the conversation with your child. Talk about online predators, grooming, and not sharing personal information with anyone they don’t know face-to-face. Someone they know face-to-face is a person they go to school with, friend, or family member. This is the first indicator of whether your child can handle Discord. Can they be “smart” about who they talk to and what they talk about? Are you comfortable with this reality? These two questions may make your decision very simple.
  3. Talk to your child about the sometimes caustic gamer environment. To say there is a lot of trash talking on Discord would be an understatement. F-bombs are flying. Threats and personal attacks should also be expected. Of course, Discord has written standards with regards to how users should treat each other, but this is not actively monitored by Discord. You can flag a user for violating these rules and they may be suspended or banned. Talk to your child about what to do if they are on the receiving end of this behavior, and the consequences if they engage in over-the-top trash talking. FYI, you can’t stop your kid from trash talking, just define the line for them.
  4. Try to monitor what your child is doing on this and other social media apps. You can download Discord on your phone and log in with your child’s username and password, and “see” what they are doing. I would also physically drop in on your child time-to-time and watch them playing a game and chatting on Discord. Remember, you get the behaviors that you inspect, not what you expect. If you never looked in your child’s room and expected them to make their bed every day, would they?

Here is the bottom line with Discord and all other social media apps that connect your child with other people: stranger interaction is the core of all online predatory crimes against children. If you can manage this issue, either through parental controls, talking to your child, actively monitoring, and you can sleep at night, then it will probably be okay. If you can’t, then it probably shouldn’t be on your child’s device. Maybe it’s a maturity or age issue. Tell your child, it’s not a “no” forever, just a “no” right now.

Other recommendations

  • Go to a free parent seminar hosted at a nearby school. This seminar will change the way you look at your child’s digital world and give you a step-by-step game plan to make your child safe. If you would like to host a parent seminar at your school, fill out the contact form to learn more.
  • Purchase the book, “Parenting in the Digital World” on Amazon.com. It will take you step-by-step through the process of making your child safer online.
  • Stay on top of the latest online trends by subscribing to our free e-newsletter.
  • Install Bark on your child’s phone. Bark will passively monitor your child’s social media and let you know if there is a problem. Use the promo code, “cybersafetycop” to get 15% off.

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About the Author

Clayton Cranford
Clayton Cranford is a retired Sergeant from Orange County Sheriff's Department in California and owner of Total Safety Solutions LLC. Clayton is one of the nation’s leading law enforcement educators on social media, child safety, and behavioral threat assessments. Clayton is the author of the definitive book on cyber safety for families, “Parenting in the Digital World.” Clayton has more than 20 years of teaching experience and was awarded the 2015 National Bullying Prevention Award from the School Safety Advocacy Council, and the 2015 American Legion Medal of Merit. Clayton was a member of the County's Behavioral Threat Assessment Team, Crisis Negotiation Team, School Resource Officer program, and Juvenile Bureau.