Discord is a free chatting app, available on the web and mobile devices, is it safe for children? You may already know the answer
Discord was originally meant to be a messaging app for gamers, or at least it was how it was branded, but now, after some extensive rebranding, it puts gaming on the side.
"IMAGINE A PLACE... ...where you can belong to a school club, a gaming group, or a worldwide art community" - Discord's website
Discord is a land without rules
This article isn't a critique over Discord, but a warning for parents to at least be aware of how social applications work, the ones who hand freely a smartphone at their children's hands.
Now if you don't know anything about Discord, here is the minimum you should know if you are a parent:
- When first logging into Discord, you don't have access to anything! There is nobody to talk to or any server
- You can add friends into your Discord account, so you can talk to them, by chatting or video calling
- Users can create servers, servers are a group of people who got invited into that server, being able to chat, talk into voice chats, and video call
- Servers are moderated by the people who create them, not the Discord staff
- Any stranger can directly message you, as long as you have a server in common with them
By knowing these basics, you may now know, that Discord won't do anything by itself, it is a boring app until you add a friend to your friend's list, or join a server.
One can also join one of the listed servers, now that Discord has that feature, called Stage Discovery, where Discord displays a list of voice chatrooms that are running at the moment.
The voice chats in Stage Discovery can be from "Talent Show" to "Confess your secrets for prizes", or even "Jokes and pickup lines", any topic that was decided for that voice chat!
I cannot say for sure, but when I accessed the app, there doesn't seem to be any active moderation by the Discord staff, and clearly... it is an application with a lot of users!
The point is: Discord does provide emails and contact methods for when something wrong is happening inside their platform, but they aren't looking after your children! You should be doing that.
Discord and auto-play
Discord will sometimes suffer from an auto-play problem, because of the servers, and the Stage Discovery feature.
If you don't know what I mean by auto-play, I am talking about the YouTube auto-play feature, this feature seems to cause odd videos about certain topics to sustain a high amount of views, why? Children.
Kids love the auto-play, I am not sure if it is related to not knowing how the platform works, or for whatever reason, they don't detach easily from auto-play.
Loads and loads of Discord servers advertise on other Discord servers with a big amount of users, to attempt and grow in numbers, to be able to have their ads, and the cycle continues...
This is bad because if a kid joins a server from Stage Discovery, or is invited to a server by any of their friends, they are quickly exposed to dozens and dozens of servers, and you certainly don't want them to join every server they encounter!
Is there adult content on Discord?
You can find any kind of content in Discord!
This includes the regular gaming servers, communities around art and music, and... adult content, tons of adult content!
Discord does have adult content policies, they are doing their job and showing needed messages, but we know that adult content warnings don't work.
Why Discord allows this?
Discord allows servers to be created for any kind of topic, and that includes this kind of content.
It's not that they are automatically adding people to these adult servers, but as explained, someone can stumble into these servers just by pressing a Join button on advertisements from the servers they are in.
There ain't much they could do either!
You can stumble into this content on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter(especially Twitter), and any platform! Being aware that this can happen is a way to be alarmed and be aware of what your kids are doing online.
How can I make Discord safe?
There ain't much to be done in that regard!
You could say that Discord is safe, what happens is that one could fall into unexpected servers, by browsing without caution.
Some options can make the app more restrict.
To start, click on the gear icon on the bottom left of the screen, then do the following on the settings page:
- Go over Privacy & Safety and check the "Keep me safe" option
- Below the Keep me safe option, uncheck "Allow direct messages from server members"
- Make sure "Allow access to NSFW servers on iOS" is unchecked
- Where it says "Who can add you as a friend", disable Server Members and Friends of Friends, in case everyone who should be added as a friend in this account is already added
These options can help, but they still could be disabled at any time!
I hope this provides information about Discord and what to be warned about when your kids use the application.
If you have any questions or feedback, reach out!