Discord App Guide: What Parents, Educators, & Students Need to Know

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Discord App Guide: What Parents, Educators, & Students Need to Know

November 29, 2021

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What is the Discord Chat app?

  • Discord connects users via voice, video, and text chats based on similar interests
  • Users can live stream games and internet videos
  • Discord started as an app for gamers, but it has branched out to become a general use platform where users chat about various topics
  • Users can access the service via an internet browser, PC, or mobile device
  • Discord markets itself as “a place where everyone can be themselves,” which often encourages students to make risky decisions they might not normally make (Discord Safety)

Why should parents care?

  • Most groups are limited to 10 users but there are some servers on the app that host 100,000+ members
  • Cyberbullying can be an issue when users belittle other users or exclude friends from group chats
  • Students can easily come across abusive language in chats
  • To view content that is tagged NSFW (Not Suitable For Wumpus, their fictional character), users must confirm that they are 18 or older. However, there is no age verification process
  • Anyone can create a group chat server and some parents report that it can be easy for strangers to message students through the app
  • It can also be easy for students to hide private messages
  • The app is free, but in-app upgrades are available

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Green Zone

Parents and Teachers: This app is listed in the SmartSocial.com Green Zone.
We believe this app is a STARTING POINT for your student, but that you must monitor your student on every app they are on. Join our weekly newsletter to learn about the 100+ App Reviews at SmartSocial.com

Gray Zone

Parents and Teachers: Please note this app is listed in the SmartSocial.com Gray Zone.
Parents should participate in these apps with students to keep them safe.
Join our weekly newsletter to learn about the 100+ App Reviews at SmartSocial.com

Red Zone

Parents and Teachers: This app is listed in the SmartSocial.com Red Zone. We believe this app is not safe for students to use without adult supervision. Join our weekly newsletter to learn about the 100+ App Reviews at SmartSocial.com

Dangerous Social media challenges

Parents and Teachers: This app is listed as a Dangerous Social Media Challenge. Knowing about social media challenges before your teen does can help you keep them safe before an incident occurs. Join our weekly newsletter to learn about the 100+ App Reviews at SmartSocial.com

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Kids want to chat online with their friends and with others who have similar hobbies, such as video games. The Discord app makes that possible, but also creates the opportunity for students to see unwanted content or have contact with strangers. 

Discord is a free voice, video, and text chat app. Like many chat apps, the company Discord doesn’t put out dangerous content themselves, but users may target other users with harmful images and messages. If your student’s Discord discussions allow random people to join, there’s a good chance they might come across something inappropriate. 

Discord says a user talks "upwards of 4 hours per day on the platform" (Discord).

This app guide explains the dangers of Discord and what parents can do to make the app safer for students.

Parent and educator training video


What is the Discord Chat app?

  • Discord connects users via voice, video, and text chats based on similar interests
  • Users can live stream games and internet videos
  • Discord started as an app for gamers, but it has branched out to become a general use platform where users chat about various topics
  • Users can access the service via an internet browser, PC, or mobile device
  • Discord markets itself as “a place where everyone can be themselves,” which often encourages students to make risky decisions they might not normally make (Discord Safety)

Why do kids like Discord?

  • While playing a game like Minecraft or Roblox, users can set up and share Discord groups to communicate with other players during the live gameplay, then continue to communicate (even when they aren’t playing)
  • Users can send videos, audio, photos, GIFs, texts, and music through the app
  • A user account is “pseudonymous” meaning beyond a self-reported age verification when signing up and the user’s email address or phone number, users are anonymous
  • Discord users can connect with others by:
  • ~Joining a public group called a server (there are 100,000+ public servers with topics ranging from games to studying to sexuality)
  • ~Joining a private server they were invited to through Discord or any other source outside the app (like chat in another game)
  • ~Create their own private server and invite their friends
  • ~Send and receive one-on-one private messages

Discord App Chat screenshot

Where is Discord available?

Apple App Store Rating: 17+ 

Google Play Rating: T (for Teen) 

Developer’s Website: Discord (Based in USA, Owned by Discord Inc.)

Terms of Service

Privacy Policy

Discord Safety Center


Why should parents care?

  • Most groups are limited to 10 users but there are some servers on the app that host 100,000+ members
  • Cyberbullying can be an issue when users belittle other users or exclude friends from group chats
  • Students can easily come across abusive language in chats
  • To view content that is tagged NSFW (Not Suitable For Wumpus, their fictional character), users must confirm that they are 18 or older. However, there is no age verification process
  • Anyone can create a group chat server and some parents report that it can be easy for strangers to message students through the app
  • It can also be easy for students to hide private messages
  • The app is free, but in-app upgrades are available

Discord app in the news

An alleged plot to kill a Willetton Senior High School teacher and set fire to the schoolroom was mapped out on a gaming chat app with settings that make it impossible for parents to monitor.

Sydney Morning Herald

Predators contact users on [social media], acting like peers in an attempt to groom them online.  This might lead to them doctoring an image of the teen or even just soliciting a nude image or video, which the predator then trades online with other predators in social media chat groups such as... Discord, and others... It’s a form of currency… Most offenders have a specific age range they are interested in and trade those images accordingly” said the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation’s Internet Crimes Against Children unit.

Cowboy State Daily, Cheyenne, Wyoming


KAGS TV headline: two college station men charged after being found with child pornography, authorities say. In the last two days, two men have been accused of having pornographic pictures of children under the age of 10 engaging in sexual acts
[One suspect] was using the app, Discord, to upload and share child pornography… He told authorities the user profile that had the image [a female under the age of 10 showing her genitals] was his and he had uploaded it to a chat group in Discord that trades child pornography.

KAGS-TV

Wall Street Journal headline: The dark side of Discord, your teen's favorite chat app
In case you haven’t heard of it, there’s plenty of good, but also a lot of bad and ugly. How ugly? Like, 9/11 jokes, racist memes and kids telling each other, 'Go kill yourself.'

Wall Street Journal

What parents say about Discord

Free Reign ADULT CONTENT - "Our son was exposed to explicit sexual content, including videos, pictures, chats and video chats. There are also groups that are not gaming related and may have negative impacts on your children. Again, access to adult orientated topics..."

Not for young teens or tweens -

"As with any social app or site, there is no way to prove the person your kid is chatting with is actually another teen, adult, or online predator. My daughter used the site with Minecraft and most of the discussions did not center around gameplay, instead, it was focused on transgender and sexual topics - and she was easily influenced by these online friends. My advice - be very plugged into the content being discussed by your kids, not only on Discord, but all social media platforms." Source:

Common Sense Media

What can parents do?

  • Ask your student if they have used Discord to chat with friends during online games or other activities
  • If they have used Discord, talk with them about what they see as the benefits of using Discord and what they do with it
  • Ask to see your student’s Discord profile including their username and profile image (consider using a bitmoji or avatar as a profile image, not an actual selfie photo)
  • Remind your students that it is impossible to know if someone is who they say they are online and on apps like Discord
  • Download Discord and use it. Ask your student to show you how to use it so you can try it out yourself before deciding if it is safe for your family
  • As a family talk about how “anonymous” content can easily be shared publicly and how predators piece information together to discover your real identity
  • Assure your students that they can come to you if they see or experience anything that doesn’t seem right, or makes them  uncomfortable on Discord or any app
  • ~Follow the Discord reporting process for any dangerous or illegal content they come across (including porn or content that glorifies or promotes self-harm)
  • Help your student make a plan for what to do if they are sent links or files and how to know if they are suspicious

Tips to talk with your student

  • Start with a conversation with them about why THEY like the app and who they like talking to
  • Sit down shoulder-to-shoulder and ask them to show you what the app is like, but don’t criticize what you see--keep an open mind
  • Download the app yourself and have your student help you set it up-they are the experts!

Parent & student training video

Discord Logo 2020

Use in-app settings to keep students safe

  • As always, use a secure password and DO NOT repeat a password you use in another account (your family can consider using a password manager like Dashlane that will create and store passwords for you)
  • ~While Discord offers two-factor authentication, students will be highly hesitant to use this extra step
  • Set your privacy and safety settings to the “Keep me safe” options to scan and delete messages that contain explicit media content
  • Friend request settings:
  • There are 3 choices: Everyone, Friends of Friends, Server Members
  • If you don’t want your students to get ANY friend requests, you can deselect all three options
  • Safety tips for adding friends:
  • On the Add Friend screen, don’t use “Find your friends,” which syncs your contacts from your phone
  • Don’t use “Nearby scan,” which gives the app permission to use Bluetooth and WiFi to find friends physically near you. This makes your location available for others to see as well
  • Direct messages (DM) settings:
  • Turn off  “Allow direct messages from server members” to block DMs from users in a server who are not on your friends list
  • If you joined any servers prior to turning this off, you must adjust your DM settings individually for each server
  • To set an explicit content filter for direct messages:
  • Go to User Settings, select Privacy & Safety
  • There are 3 choices:
  1. Keep me safe - Images and videos in all direct messages are scanned by Discord and explicit content is blocked: This is our recommendation for students
  2. My friends are nice - All direct messages sent by users who are not on your Friends List are scanned and explicit content is blocked
  3. Do not scan - With this setting, none of the direct messages you receive will be scanned or blocked for explicit content 

How to block and report other users

  • Blocking another user will remove them from your friends list and they will no longer be able to DM you
  • Old messages will remain until you delete them, but new messages they attempt to send you will be hidden

Conclusion

It’s important for parents to use Discord’s in-app security settings, but not to rely solely on them to keep your students safe. Your best bet for keeping students safe on the Discord chat app is keeping an open dialogue about what they’re doing and who they’re talking to.

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