Is Discord Safe for Kids?
Is your kid hooked on a platform called Discord? Are you wondering if it's safe for them to use? Step inside our comprehensive guide where we pull back the curtain on Discord. We'll explore its potential risks, unveil effective safety measures and show how you, with the help of tools like Discord's Family Center and Ohana, can ensure your kid enjoys a safer digital experience.
What is Discord?
With 190 million active monthly users, Discord has become a thriving social platform where users can chat through voice calls, video calls, text messages, and also share media and files. Initially, Discord gained its popularity among gamers, but it has since expanded its horizons to embrace a plethora of other interest groups. It's also a popular platform among kids who use it to text their friends, join game sessions, study together, or discuss their interests.
The central feature of Discord are 'servers'. A server is a designated area for a group of users who share a common interest - like a particular video game, a hobby, a club, or even a study group. Each server is broken down into 'channels', which can be thought of as rooms in a house, each dedicated to different topics or activities. Discord also offers a subscription service called Discord Nitro, which offers additional perks such as animated emojis, better quality video, and a boost for your favorite servers.
Over time, Discord has evolved and is now accessible on a vast range of devices. Whether it's an app on your computer, smartphone, tablet, or even directly through your web browser, Discord ensures that their users can stay connected wherever they go.
Is Discord Safe for Kids?
Discord allows anyone 13 years and older to create an account, so naturally, it attracts a diverse user base - including teens. As parents, it's crucial to understand the potential risks that come with this platform:
1. Exposure to Inappropriate Content:
The beauty and the beast of the internet lie in its vastness, and Discord is no exception. With such a wide variety of servers, there's a chance your kid may encounter some that aren't quite age-appropriate. These might include channels that discuss mature themes, use explicit language, or share harmful content. Just as you wouldn't want your kid wandering into an R-rated movie, it's essential to guide them away from these mature digital spaces.
2. Cyberbullying and Harassment:
Unfortunately, just as bullying can happen in the ‘real’ world, it can also occur online. A bully could misuse Discord’s features to send mean or intimidating messages. Cyberbullying is a growing concern and it's essential to check in with your kid regularly to ensure they're having positive experiences online.
3. Contact with Strangers and Online Predators:
In any public online space, there's a chance your kid might run into strangers. While many of these encounters are harmless and can even lead to wonderful friendships, some could be potential threats. On Discord, it's very much possible for your kid to be contacted by people they don't know, and this could include online predators who may attempt to exploit young users.
4. Lack of End-to-End Encryption:
Unlike some messaging platforms, Discord doesn't have end-to-end encryption. This means private information isn't as secure as it could be. It's important to remind your kid not to share personal or sensitive information on the platform.
5. Data Collection:
While Discord is free to use, it's important to remember that most free platforms still require some form of payment—in this case, data. Discord collects user data to provide its services, and while you can adjust the privacy settings to limit this, it's a factor to keep in mind.
How Old Should Your Kid Be To Use Discord?
While the age limit for creating a Discord account is set at 13, the recommended age for independent use is higher. The Apple App Store recommends an age of 17+, while the Google Play Store suggests parental guidance for younger users. This isn't unusual in the digital world. Many platforms have a lower age limit but are more appropriate for older teens because of the maturity required to handle the content and interactions found there.
As a result, we suggest that Discord may be more appropriate for older teens. This recommendation is not only about the content but also about the skills needed to navigate the platform. Older teens are more likely to have developed the digital literacy skills necessary to understand and manage the potential risks.
However, every kid is different. What matters most is not just their biological age, but their maturity level, their ability to understand the potential risks, and their readiness to use such a platform responsibly. As a parent, you are the best judge of when your kid is ready to use platforms like Discord.
Discord's Family Center
To address these concerns and to give parents a tool to keep an eye on their kid's activity, Discord has launched a feature called "Family Center". This allows you to connect with your kid’s account and receive updates about their activity.
Here are the steps to set up Family Center:
- Open the Discord app and go to 'User Settings.'
- Find 'Family Center.'
- Select 'Parent/Guardian Setup.'
- Ask your kid to generate a QR code from their Family Center. Scan this code with your device to connect your accounts.
Family Center is designed to provide a high-level insight into your kid’s Discord activities. You’ll see which users your kid is talking to, what Discord communities they’re part of, but won't be able to see the content of the conversations. This approach encourages a balance between parental oversight and teen privacy, a balance we at Ohana agree with.
Why? Because, while it's essential to protect your kid from potential risks, it's just as important to trust them and maintain an open line of communication about their online experiences. This ongoing dialogue can foster mutual trust and understanding.
Discuss the kind of interactions they have, the servers they are part of, and the topics that interest them. Encourage them to share their experiences – both positive and negative. Let them know they can approach you if they encounter anything uncomfortable or distressing.
In addition, it's important to address the potential risks and how to deal with them. Talk about the importance of not sharing personal information online, the nature of online friendships, and how to handle cyberbullying.
One way to kick off these discussions and establish boundaries is by using our free Tech Agreement. It's a great tool to set rules, define expectations, and open up regular conversations about your kid's online journey. It will help you guide them while respecting their autonomy and privacy.
How to Block Discord Using Ohana
If you decide that Discord isn't appropriate for your kid, or if you want to limit the time they spend on the platform, Ohana offers the option to block it:
- Open Ohana on your device.
- Navigate to your kid's profile.
- Scroll down and tap 'Apps.'
- Choose whether you want to always block Discord or only in Focus or Locked Mode.
- Select 'Discord' in the list.
Before blocking any app, we recommend having a conversation with your kid. Explain why you're considering this action, listen to their perspective, and make a decision together.
So, what’s the conclusion?
Navigating the digital world alongside your kid may feel like an intimidating challenge at times. But remember, you're not alone in this. With tools like Discord's Family Center, Ohana, and above all, open and ongoing communication, you can ensure your kid enjoys the benefits of Discord safely and responsibly.
Equipping yourself with the right information and understanding your kid's digital world is the first step towards protecting them. So, stay informed, stay engaged, and you'll be well on your way to fostering a healthy and safe online environment for your kid.
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