Discord in 2023

Discord is a popular communication app that allows users to create and join community servers dedicated to a specific topic or group, and communicate through text, voice, and video chat. In the beginning, Discord was primarily designed for gamers, as a way to chat in game with other players. It has since grown to include community servers of all categories, including music, education, science & technology, and entertainment. However, you can search for a community server on any topic. Within the app you can create and access private and public community servers. Within each server you have two different types of channels:  text and voice. Text channels will have a # symbol and voice channels will have a speaker symbol. There is also a direct message and group direct message function. So, lots of options to communicate with their friends but also the ability to access complete strangers.

The age rating for Discord was originally 13 + however in 2021 due to the ever increasing incidence of adult content, Apple increased the age rating to 17+ and advised Discord to do the same. In the US the minimum age requirement to create an account is 13 years which is only verified by the user imputing their date of birth but in their terms of service they do indicate that users also need to follow the age requirement laws of their country of origin. Some public servers and channels are classified as adult channels with Not Safe For Work (NSFW) content and will display a warning pop up for the user to confirm that they are 18+ years. However, with no robust age verification users can tell untruths about their age to access the adult content. Users aged between 13-17 years are automatically restricted from servers or channels classified NSFW content.

Currently Discord has an estimated 563 million registered users and 26.5 million daily active users (DAUs). Of the total users worldwide 42% of users are aged 25-34 and 22.2% are in the 18-24 age range. Interestingly it is very difficult to access any age demographic information on users aged 13-17 years. Men tend to be more active on Discord with a gender split of 79% male and 21% female.  

It’s not surprising that the two most popular servers in Discord are Fortnite and Roblox. Two games that are synonymous with school aged children.   

Although the Discord App is free to use there is a premium version called Discord Nitro which is a monthly subscription which includes better features including emojis and avatar animation and the ability to have a custom tag.   

So why is your teen obsessed with Discord the truth is it is another avenue to be social and makes gaming much more enjoyable. Most games have their own team chat function built in, but most serious gamers believe that Discord has a higher quality chat function. They can create their own community server talk to their friends in private group chats or access public community servers.

Red flags

  • With the use of avatars and the highly customisable nature of Discord makes it very easy to misrepresent who you are
  • It’s private so inappropriate behaviour, cyberbullying or grooming isn’t in the public eye
  • Prevalence and exposure of explicit material in addition to that marked NSFW
  • It has a location tracking feature called ‘nearby’ that identifies people who are close to you in proximity – this is an opt in feature. 
  • There is Live video capability within the app.
  • Users can donate to channels they follow or access paid-only servers.
  • There isn’t end-to-end encryption, meaning messages aren’t digitally scrambled so only the parties participating in the chat can read them. So, anything posted on Discord, like anywhere on the internet, can become public, permanent, searchable and unfortunately misused.        

So what can I do to protect my child?

Earlier this year Discord has introduced a safety feature for parents called Family Center. In their new feature Discord states ‘We want everyone to experience the joy of Discord, find belonging, and build community. That’s why we’ve made safety a top priority’. This feature has been created to help families keep informed of how their child is interacting within the platform. It is important to note that while you will be able to monitor functions within the platform you cannot view what your teenager is saying in chats or videos. 

Managing privacy and security settings is important. Like with all programs, apps and platforms the first stop is always to set up your privacy and security settings. To block direct messages from strangers and moderate friend requests select ‘Friends of friends’. 

Use the in built safety functions to control the content viewed like block custom words, the explicit media content filter and block servers and users that aren’t suitable for your teenager.  

Limit their scope of chat to private servers with people they know as joining the large public servers will expose them to inappropriate content and can potentially put them in the path of predators. 

Don’t open links or attachments, even if they are within your private server, as the risk is too high that it may be a hacker. 

There is no getting around the fact that Discord’s popularity with teens is due to the open and free nature of the platform. They can communicate freely with their friends in a fun and interactive way without a social media giant algorithm controlling what they see or bombarding them with the latest  advertising campaign. However, it means their interaction can be lead and influenced by potential strangers under the guise of an avatar and a cute name. The best way to protect them is to be actively involved and collaborative about their digital usage. The more information our teens have the better armed they are if or when something arises. 

Here are a few resources that have lots of information to help you, 

Discord Community Guidelines 

Discord Transparency Report: April – June 2023

Click to access the login or register cheese
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