If you find an app called Discord on your kid’s phone, you might be concerned. “Discord? What’s Discord? I don’t want discord in my child’s life!” It may not be the best name choice for discerning parents. So, what is Discord, and should you be concerned?
I have reviewed Discord twice before. Over time my recommendation for this app has evolved. This year, I have received more calls from parents whose children have been sexually exploited by predators on Discord than at any other time. Additionally, I speak to hundreds of school administrators throughout the year. When I ask school principals how things are going with their students and social media, the number one app causing the most disruption in their school is Discord.
What is 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, 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 ten other friends.
Discord has its vocabulary. You might hear your teen or students using these words when discussing Discord.
Server: Servers are the spaces on Discord. They are made by specific communities and friend groups. The vast majority of servers are small and invitation-only. Some larger servers are public. Any user can start a new server for free and invite their friends to it.
Channel: Discord servers are organized into text and voice channels, which are usually dedicated to specific topics and can have different rules.
- In-text channels, users can post messages, upload files, and share images for others to see at any time.
- In voice channels, users can connect through a voice or video call in real-time and share their screen with their friends – we call this Go Live.
DMs and GDMs: Users can send private messages to other users as a direct message (DM) and start a voice or video call. Most DMs are one-on-one conversations, but users can invite up to nine others to the conversation to create a private group DM, with a maximum size of ten people. Group DMs are not public and require an invite from someone in the group to join.
Go Live: users can share their screen with other people on a server or a DM with them.
Problems: If your kid is a gamer, they will want 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.
There is the potential for a lot of stranger interaction on Discord. Predators know one of the best ways to build a relationship with a child and groom them to be sexually exploited is through online gaming. Discord is and continues to be fertile ground for predators. I have counseled dozens of parents who have had their child exploited by a predator on Discord over the past couple of years. In 2020, 10 men were arrested and sentenced for utilizing private servers to produce and exchange child pornography on Discord. They actively worked together to identify minor females’ social media platforms and profiles, including girls as young as 10-years-old and strategized how to convince the children to engage in sexually explicit activity via live web camera. While pretending to be minor boys and girls, the predators streamed pre-recorded videos of other underage minors engaging in similar conduct to the targeted victims to get the children to believe they were watching a live video of someone their age. The victims were unaware that they were communicating with adult men and recording their sexually explicit activity. After successfully recording a victim, the defendants shared the sexually explicit videos by uploading the files to file-storage sites and placing a link to download the file on a section of their private Discord server. There were more than 172 victims.¹
Pornography can be easily found on Discord’s private servers. I have counseled many parents who have blocked porn sites on their children’s devices to learn their child had been consuming an unlimited amount of pornography on a Discord private server.
Parental Controls: There are privacy settings that will help limit who your child can chat with and possibly filter out explicit content from DMs.
Recommendation: Minimum safe age is 17-years-old. If you are concerned about your child’s potential access to pornography or other explicit material, or you don’t have the time to monitor your child’s Discord activity actively, then this social media app is not for you.
If you allow your older teen to have Discord, I suggest you check up on their activity by logging into their Discord account with their username and password. By logging in as your child, you can see the servers they have subscribed to in the far left-hand column. You can also review who their friends are and any direct messages from the app’s home page.
- 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.
- Ten sentenced to prison for child exploitation enterprise & conspiracy (2020). Retrieved 17 February 2021, https://biometrica.com/10-sentenced-to-prison-for-child-exploitation-enterprise-conspiracy/
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