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Discord: everything you need to know about the chat service

What is Discord?

Discord is a chat service specifically designed for gamers to connect with each other using either text, voice or video chat. Unlike similar services such as Twitch, Discord is not designed to host live streams that audiences can tune into and watch, but rather focuses on invite-only, group-based communication. Users can access the service downloading the desktop application, using the browser version or downloading the app for mobile or tablet. Discord is completely free to use and has around 14 million players accessing it every day, and a total of 150 million users signed up.

Are there any age restrictions?

According to Discord, the chat service is designed for teens and adults and says that users must be at least 13 years old to sign up. However, there is no verification method in place to enforce this other than having to verify your account through an email. It is stated in the terms and conditions that if you are under 13 you must have the consent of a parent or guardian.

Does it have parental controls?

Discord does not offer any parental controls, as such, but has advanced privacy settings which allows the account holder to adjust pretty much the entire user experience. Since it emphasises that it is supposed to be invite-only which puts the user in charge of who they want to connect with or not, you can make your profile as private as you would like.

For example, you can adjust

  • Who can direct message you and view your information
  • Who can add you to their friends list
  • Which servers you want to be a part of
  • Which members of a group you want to communicate with

What sort of safety features are available?

The chat service has an array of safety tools available to help protect your child from exposure to explicit content and abuse. For example, you can enable the programme to scan all incoming direct messages and delete all the explicit content it detects, be it text, images or videos.

You can do this by going to the ‘User Settings’ page, click on the ‘Privacy & Safety’ tab and then tick the box that says, ‘Keep me safe’.

Discord also recommends that you add another layer of security to your account by activating two-factors authentication (2FA). This involves registering the devices you use and having to enter a code received either by email or text message in addition to your password. You can activate 2FA by going to ‘User Settings’, click on ‘My Account’ and then tick the box that says ‘Enable Two-Factor Authentication’.

What else do parents need to be aware of?

Although Discord does a good job of blocking out sexually explicit content, the most prominent risk to children using the service is bullying. There is a risk of children being targeted by some nasty comments in Gaming Chats if they, for example, perform badly in an online game. Although a text-based chat can be filtered, no such safeguards are in place in a video or voice chat.

A good way of ensuring that a situation like this does not arise is to make sure your child only takes part in groups where they know the other members and avoids groups with large member bases.

Are there any reporting tools?

Although it can be difficult to prevent bullying in voice and video chat, there are reporting tools in place if your child has been the victim of inappropriate behaviour.

You can block users by accessing the list of members in a group and clicking on the user you wish to block which will bring up their profile. In the app, click on the three-dot menu at the top of a user's page and click ‘Remove friend’. In the browser, bring up your friends list and right-click on the user you wish to block and click 'Block'.

If you want to report a case of abuse to the developers you need to submit your claim to abuse@discordapp.com and provide some key information (more detailed explanation here). The community guidelines state that any user found harassing or abusing another, will receive a warning from the developers and, if the behaviour persists, the user will be permanently blocked. However, if a user threatens to physically harm another or threatens to kill someone, this will result in an immediate, permanent ban. Read more about the community guidelines here.