How exactly does Discord work? Like every social media platform out there, Discord can be harmless if used correctly and damaging if the user goes down the wrong rabbit hole.
In recent years, a new platform for chatting, voice calls, and video calls has taken the youngest generation by storm. It seems every kid these days has heard of “Discord,” and many of them can proudly say they own or are part of a Discord server with their friends.
To keep your child safe on the platform, read on to learn more about how Discord functions and what the best steps to take are to keep your child’s experience fun and safe.
How Discord Works
Like Skype, Snapchat, and Instagram, Discord offers its users ways to interact with each other via chat rooms, called “servers” on the platform. If your child has a friend group that they like to hang out and talk to, it’s possible that they’ve already established a Discord server to text, voice, or video chat in. Or, perhaps they’re currently considering making one.
While Discord is great for connecting small-scale groups like local friends, it also sees wide use in larger communities. For instance, video games like Minecraft, Fortnite, and Roblox have their own official Discord servers, where thousands of fans can congregate and have game-focused discussions.
Discord often markets itself toward gamers, but its audience reaches far beyond video games; you won’t have to look far to find servers dedicated to knitting, politics, superhero movies, swimming, and anything in between.
If the idea of your child interacting with large numbers of strangers makes you nervous, they may not be ready to join large-scale servers such as the ones listed above. If you find yourself feeling this way, your best bet is likely to keep your child on smaller, real-life-friends-only servers.
With that being said, however, there are still many security and privacy-related issues that you will want to keep in check, even if your child is only planning to talk to friends.
How to Stay Safe on Discord
When you or your child boots up Discord for the first time, you will find yourself greeted by a number of icons corresponding with servers, friend lists, microphone options, et cetera. The first step you will want to take is to click the gear-like option near the bottom-left of the screen. The “User Settings” tab will open.
Once you’re in User Settings, navigate to the “Privacy & Safety” tab. There, you will want to select “Keep me safe” under “Safe Direct Messaging.” This option will prevent individuals from privately messaging your child inappropriate images, videos, and other content.
Under “Who can add you as a friend” in the same tab, you will need to come to a decision: do you want anyone on the internet to be able to add your child as a friend if they have their account tag? Do you only want members who share a server with your child to be able to add them as a friend? Or, would you also be all right with friends of your child’s Discord friends adding them? Depending on your response, you will want to choose the corresponding option.
Under “How we use your data,” you can deselect any options that you are not comfortable with leaving on. Your child’s Discord experience will not be heavily affected by any of them.
Once again looking at the options list, scroll down to find a tab called “Voice & Video.” Click on it, and you will now be able to set up your child’s microphone and webcam for chats with their friends.
Having a microphone or a camera is not required to participate in a call, as your child will likely still have access to text chats for communication.
If you don’t feel comfortable with giving your child microphone and/or camera access, do not set up those peripherals.
At this point, you have tinkered with every privacy option that you can at the moment. Your next consideration is what kind of servers your child will be joining to communicate with friends.
At a basic level, you have three options available to you, and they correspond to three levels of safety: you can create a server for your child and their friends via your own Discord account, you can allow your child to create their own server for their friends, or you can allow your child to join a Discord server that their friends have already created.
Creating your own Discord account and setting up a server for your child and their friends is the safest option of the three. By doing this, you will be able to monitor who’s joining the server, what is being discussed, and if your child is being safe. In the event of misbehavior, you will also have the ability to remove users via a kick or ban from the server.
The drawbacks to this approach, however, are quite heavy: your child may feel that they do not have the freedom to converse as they please in the server, and in the event that their friends have already set up a server, you will need to ask them to join a new server to speak with your child. Nevertheless, if you find that these drawbacks aren’t an issue, you will want to go this route for the safety it provides.
Allowing your child to create a server for their friends represents a middle ground in terms of safety. Rather than handling moderation yourself, you can work together with your child to create a safe, friendly environment for their friends to join into. This option does not give you direct access to the server, but it puts the power in your child’s hands to deal with potentially troublesome situations.
If you trust your child can handle that responsibility, you will want to consider this option; your child and their friends will likely appreciate the freedom you are allowing them.
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The third and most potentially problematic option is allowing your child to join an existing friend server. In the event that your child already has friends on Discord, they have most likely already set up a primary server to chat on, and it’s likely that your child will want to join that server, too.
However, many problems can arise from allowing your child to join a pre-existing server: the server may be private, but it could also be open to the general public; the server may not have many moderators, leading to issues not being properly addressed when they arise; the server’s content may even go completely unmoderated at worst, making it possible for anyone to break the rules and post offensive content at any time.
If you want to allow your child to join an existing friend server, you must be careful; be sure to have a conversation with your child about safe online practices, and if possible, try to have a conversation with the server’s moderators and/or owner. It’s worth familiarizing yourself with their practices and rules before you allow your child to join in.
Depending on how it’s used, Discord can be a powerful communication tool for your child, or it can be a dangerous platform like any other social media program. But, as long as you stay cautious and use the platform well, you can set the stage for your child to create many exciting memories in the months to come.