As an expert in cybersecurity with over 10 years experience helping families stay safe online, one of the top questions I‘m asked these days is: is Discord safe for kids?
It‘s an important question. After all, Discord now has over 150 million active users, and a recent Pew study found 30% of teens have used it.
In this comprehensive guide, we‘ll cover everything parents need to know about Discord safety for kids, including:
- An in-depth look at how Discord works
- The specific risks of using Discord
- Safety features and parental controls
- How to keep kids safe on Discord servers
- How Discord compares to other social apps
I‘ll also provide concrete tips to help you make informed decisions about your kids‘ Discord use based on their maturity and your family‘s standards.
Let‘s dive in.
A Quick Primer: What is Discord and How Does it Work?
For parents unfamiliar with Discord, let‘s start with a quick overview of what it is and how it works.
Discord is a free chat app launched in 2015. It allows users to communicate via:
- Text Channels – Chat rooms for sending text, links, images, videos.
- Voice Channels – Real-time voice chat rooms. Users can talk, livestream video, share screens, broadcast gameplay.
- Direct Messages – One-on-one private messages between Discord users.
The key appeal of Discord is providing a space for real-time communication around shared interests.
For example, there are servers focused on art, gaming, music, finance, coding, and more. Users join these servers to instantly chat and connect over niche topics. Think of it like a clubhouse.
Of course, as I‘ll explore next, the openness that makes Discord engaging also poses risks to children.
What Are the Risks of Kids Using Discord?
As an open platform that allows chat with strangers, there are considerable risks children face on Discord if the proper precautions aren‘t taken.
Over 16% of kids report being cyberbullied. Anonymity leads some users to harass others via abusive messages, texts, images, videos on Discord. From January 2021 to June 2022, Discord received 46,964 cyberbullying reports.
Predators leverage the open chat to contact minors. One report revealed hundreds of Discord accounts dedicated to sharing images of underaged girls. Discord shut down over 1,500 servers in Q1 2022 for child exploitation content.
Children sometimes share personal information like full names, birthdays, addresses. This can facilitate identity theft. 5% of identity theft victims are under 19.
Exposure to Explicit Content
Without filters, kids can come across pornographic images, videos, and conversations in servers and direct messages. In Q4 2022 alone, Discord removed 17,000 servers for explicit content.
The anonymity and openness of Discord poses risks many parents are rightfully concerned about.
Next I‘ll overview built-in safety features that help reduce these risks when properly configured.
Discord‘s Built-In Safety Features and Parental Controls
Discord does offer a range of safety features and settings to help protect kids:
- Explicit Content Filter – Blocks inappropriate images in messages and DMs
- Restricted Friend Requests – Controls who can add your child as a friend
- Limited DMs – Disables DMs from server members you don‘t know
- Data Tracking Opt-Out – Stops analytics collection
- Hidden Image Previews – Doesn‘t display images/videos automatically
- Two-Factor Authentication – Adds extra login security
However, these features must be enabled and customized appropriately to be effective, which is where parental oversight comes in.
Comparing Discord to Other Popular Social Apps
Before jumping into specific tips, it‘s useful to briefly compare Discord against other popular youth apps:
|TikTok||TikTok is all videos. Discord facilitates real-time communication. But TikTok‘s algorithm can also expose kids to inappropriate content.|
|Instagram is now dominated by Reels and recommendations vs user choice. Discord offers more controlled communities based on interests.|
|Snapchat||While Snapchat deletes messages, the app still has them in storage. Discord‘s public logs can actually provide proof of harassment. But Snapchat alerts on screenshots.|
|Reddit and Discord both enable interest-based communities. But Discord‘s real-time chat poses higher risk than Reddit‘s traditional forum style.|
Now let‘s get into the concrete steps you can take to maximize your kid‘s safety on Discord.
7 Must-Have Safety Steps for Parents
Based on my decade of helping families stay secure online, here are the 7 safety essentials every parent should implement if they allow kids on Discord:
1. Have an Open Conversation
Sit down with your child and have an open conversation about online safety risks and your expectations using Discord. Get on the same page.
2. Review All Servers Joined
Ensure any servers your child joins are age appropriate and focused on positive interests. Monitor new servers they join.
3. Lock Down Privacy Settings
Enable all of Discord‘s built-in privacy settings and parental controls. I‘ll outline specifics next.
4. Establish Ground Rules
Set clear guidelines like no DMing strangers, limitations on hours, avoiding adult servers, and rules on sharing personal information.
5. Monitor Usage
Periodically check in on who your child is chatting with and the content of those chats to ensure safety.
6. Install Security Software
Supplement Discord‘s protections with comprehensive antivirus software with parental controls enabled.
7. Have Ongoing Conversations
Continuously discuss online safety and responsibilities, not just a one-time talk. Keep those lines of communication open.
Hands down, an open dialogue and monitoring are the best ways to keep your kid safe on any platform, including Discord.
Now let‘s dive into customizing Discord‘s robust settings for maximum security:
7 Must-Have Discord Settings for Parents
Discord provides powerful customization options to restrict communications and filter inappropriate content. Here are the key settings every parent should enable:
1. Enable the Explicit Content Filter
This filters out inappropriate images in messages across Discord, which is hugely important for avoiding adult content. You can enable this filter under Privacy & Safety Settings.
2. Limit Friend Requests
Under Friend Requests in settings, limit new friends to only server members or friends of friends. This prevents strangers from adding your child.
3. Restrict Direct Messages (DMs)
Disable DMs from server members your child doesn‘t know under Server Privacy Defaults. This prevents unwanted outreach.
4. Disable Data Tracking
Toggle this off under Privacy & Safety to prevent Discord collecting usage analytics or using data for ads targeting your child.
5. Hide Image/Video Previews
Disable automatic previews under Text & Images so risky content isn‘t shown without consent.
6. Use Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)
Enabling 2FA adds critical account protection by requiring an extra step to log in, like a code from an authenticator app.
7. Block Suspicious Users
Know how to fully block concerning users so they can‘t contact your child again. You can block Directly from a user‘s profile.
Is Discord Ultimately Safe for Your Kid?
At the end of the day, is joining Discord worth the risks?
The truth is it depends on your child‘s maturity level and ability to use Discord responsibly.
Enabling Discord‘s safety settings, having ongoing conversations, and monitoring your child‘s usage helps reduce the dangers. But risks remain given the open nature of chat.
For younger or less disciplined kids, you may want to prohibit Discord entirely. But for teens exhibiting responsible behavior, Discord can be a great way to explore interests and connect with peers if proper precautions are taken.
As the parent, you must decide what‘s right for your family after carefully weighing both the benefits and inherent risks.
I hope this guide gave you a comprehensive understanding of Discord safety to make the most informed choice for your child‘s situation. Stay vigilant out there!