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What is Discord, and is it safe for kids?

As with a lot of the internet, Discord can be a wild frontier.
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Published onFebruary 8, 2024

Discord stock photo 16
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

Whether or not you consider yourself a technically savvy parent, you’re probably here because you’ve heard your kid(s) talk about an app called Discord. So what is Discord exactly, and is it something they should be using?

What is Discord, and how does it work?

Discord best chat room apps for Android

Discord is a real-time group chat platform enabling text, voice, and (less often) video conversations. While there’s a paid subscription option called Discord Nitro, most people use Discord for free, since essential functions work just fine that way. Think of it as the spiritual successor to mIRC, if you’re old enough to remember that app’s heyday.

The service was initially very gaming-focused, and still is overall. You can stream gameplay video with a little work. But it’s now so popular that people will use it to talk and broadcast about many topics, including everything from school to politics and e-bikes.

Discord is structured around the concept of servers. Once users join a server or create one, they’re then able to join channels dedicated to specific topics. Servers also have roles, which are granted by administrators. While roles can be purely symbolic, they usually have associated permissions, which is a way of delegating authority while keeping it in check. A single administrator can’t be watching 24/7, after all.

A common reason people use Discord is small-scale voice chat during multiplayer games. While games often have their own built-in chat functions, Discord makes it simple to keep a group of friends in touch across all games, regardless of platform.

Is Discord safe for kids?

If we define “kids” as preteens or earlier, probably not, at least not without very close supervision. Even well-meaning general servers are going to have a mix of people of different ages and backgrounds, so there’s no way of guaranteeing kids won’t encounter profanity, bigotry, bullying, and/or sexual or violent content. If your kid insists on using Discord to keep up with friends or other peers, you should take full advantage of parental controls (see below) and personally vet the server(s) they want to use. Technically, no one under 13 is supposed to be on Discord.

In extreme cases kids could become the target of scammers, hackers, or pedophiles, or find themselves on servers dedicated to promoting racism, fascism, sexism, conspiracy theories, or religious fundamentalism.

What age is Discord suitable for?

Discord normally allows anyone 13 or older unless local regulations push that limit higher. New users are required to enter their date of birth, and if someone is reported as being underage, their account will unavoidably be deleted unless they can confirm they’re properly aged using officially ID.

That age limit is about right, we feel, but as a parent, you should still keep tabs on what a teen is up to. Bigotry, bullying, and sexual content may still be worries, not to mention the possibility of a teen taking an interest in hateful ideologies.

Does Discord have parental controls?

Yes, to a limited degree. The service has something called the Family Center, which lets parents (or other guardians) see a teen’s activity during the last 7 days. That includes the servers they use, the people they talk to, and any new friends they’ve added.

You can’t, however, access the content of a teen’s conversations. This would of course intrude on their privacy, which is crucial for building their personal identity and discussing issues they may not be able to share with the adults in their life. While some parents may feel entitled to maximum control regardless, it’s impractical for Discord to archive every text, voice, or video exchange.

For Family Center to work, parents/guardians must link their accounts with a teen’s through Discord’s Android or iOS apps. We cover that process in the Family Center guide linked above. It’s possible though that a teen will refuse to participate, in which case there’s not much you can do short of blocking access to Discord altogether.

Family Center doesn’t let parents or guardians enable any kind of real-time censorship. You can enable filters for message requests, direct messages, and user discovery if you can access a teen’s profile, but these only affect who a teen can get in contact with, and they can simply reverse any changes when you’re not looking.