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.

BLOCKING DIRECT MESSAGES

The first part of privacy settings is the Privacy Settings menu. Click the little down arrow next to the server name and you’ll find this drop-down menu window:

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In addition to being able to adjust notification and server settings, you can adjust privacy settings on a per-server basis as well.

Selecting/deselecting this option lets you block DMs (Direct Messages) from users in that server that isn’t on your friend’s list. Normally, sharing a mutual server is all it takes to allow DMs. This option can filter out anyone you don’t want to hear from.

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BLOCKING USERS – DESKTOP INSTRUCTIONS

In the case that you generally like everyone in a server (except for a few individuals), the DM list has a quick-access menu to a user’s profile!

In your DM chat, clicking the @Username will bring up the user’s profile! You can click the three dots in the top right to pull up a menu that will let you block the user.

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ON FRIEND REQUESTS

Last stop on the damage control tour of Discord’s settings is adjusting friend request privileges. To find this menu, open up your User Settings and click the Privacy & Safety tab:

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ALLOWED FRIEND REQUESTS

Here you can set who’s allowed to send you a friend request:

Everyone: Selecting Everyone means that anyone who knows your DiscordTag or is in a mutual server with you can send you a request. Having this selected will automatically include both Friends of Friends and Server Members options.

Friends of Friends: Selecting this means that for anyone to add you, they must have at least one mutual friend with you. You can view this in their user profile by clicking the Mutual Friends tab next to the Mutual Servers tab:

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Server Members: Selecting server members means users who share a server with you can send you a friend request. Deselecting this means that you can only be added by someone with mutual friends as you.

Recommendation

The 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.

References:

  1. 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/
  2. Discord Blocking & Privacy Settings. Retrieved 16 May 2022, https://support.discord.com/hc/en-us/articles/217916488-Blocking-Privacy-Settings-

*There are affiliate links throughout this post because we’ve tested and trust a small list of parental control solutions. Our work saves you time! If you decide that you agree with us, then we may earn a small commission, which does nothing to your price. Thank you! 

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