What is the Discord app?
Description: The Discord app (https://discordapp.com/) is free, and the only cross-platform voice and text chat app of its kind, designed specifically for gamers. It was created to replace other, voice-over internet protocol (VoIP) services by offering features that gamers love, particularly those obsessed with massively multiplayer online games (MMO’s or MMOG’s).
It allows users to create and join servers, channels, or chatrooms to interact with select groups of people based on something they have in common forming a sort of “tribe.” Users can also send direct messages to other users so conversations are kept private. Some outside the gaming community are finding this app useful and have started using it to replace Skype or Facebook Messenger. It can be used on either desktops or phones.
- Users can access the app via their internet browser, PC, or mobile device.
- The app is designed for users age 13 and up to use in real time while playing games.
- In order to view content that is NSFW (not safe for work), users must confirm that they are 18 or older.
Category: Social Networking (which should tell you what they really emphasize – communicate!)
APP Store rating: 12+ (infrequent/mild/mature suggestive themes, sexual content, profanity, etc.)
What do parents need to know about Discord?
The app is fun for keeping groups in touch. Consider all the different circles of friends and associates each one of has in life. Wouldn’t it be so much easier if we could connect with each directly through one simple app? For gamers, who see themselves as a tribe of their own, this ability to speak with other gamers is important.
Privacy and limits can be customized, but…Users who create servers or channels are able to limit who can join or message people within their group. The default setting, however, is no verification requirement at all.
Gizmodo provided this scathing assessment of Discord in a 2017 article:
“Over 25 million users have flocked to Discord, a text and voice platform for gamers, since its launch in May of 2015. Despite the company raising at least 30 million in venture capital funding, the company has only five “customer experience” personnel and no moderators on its staff. From what I’ve seen, users who wish to engage in harassment, raid servers, or bombard chats and users with child pornography suffer no lasting repercussions for doing so. That seemingly any server can become the victim of organized attacks represents the strained and failing infrastructure of moderation—of Discord, and of virtually any community on the internet.”
Is there pornography on the app? There has been some buzz, which began in late March 2017, stating there were channels where child pornography was being shared. As a company, Discord, stated it was investigating the issue and offered directions on how users should respond if they encountered illegal activity. There are a few obscure hidden doorways to a Google search, but a child would have to be highly motivated to find it.
The problem is that any digital environment that promotes secrecy or privacy to its users is always going to have a lot of inappropriate content, if you’re looking for it. In this way, Discord struggles. Users intentionally create servers/groups in order to be private and at times, inappropriate with each other. NOTHING is moderated. Read this App Store quote from a parent:
“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. Many of the messages were from people seeking help, talking about suicide, doing drugs, cutting etc. I have no idea how old any of the other discord users are since I cannot view much detail in their profiles…I do not recommend this app for anyone who is not an adult.”
Related post: My Kid is Caught Up in Porn or Sexting. Now What?
GIFS, emojis, and images are easy to share. The interaction with images that could be sexual in nature would stem from the user and the user’s connections, which are able to be limited.
Discord NITRO. This is a $4.99/month subscription that gives gamers extra perks, like a unique Discord tag (identifying number), animated avatar, higher quality screen share, animated emojis and more.
Game streaming. As of August 2019, users can stream a game to up to ten friends. The feature is called ‘Go Live’ and is an extension of their video chat and screen share feature that was introduced two years ago.
Server Video. This drop-in, drop-out video chat is similar to Houseparty. So users select when they are open to chatting and other users can see that and join them.
The bottom line: is Discord safe?
It can be fun if used safely and with supervision, but it feels like a high school-level add. There are always risks, especially when direct messaging options are available. This kind of app can also foster an environment of secrets, if users are not cautious.
If appropriate security measures are not taken when creating a chat group or the person is not discerning when joining a channel, there can be privacy risk. Conversations surrounding the reason for use and the types of chatrooms being used, and accessed, as well as the types of servers your child would create, should be foundational when deciding if you let your teen use this app.
Related post: Do Violent Video Games Cause Violent Behavior?
Now What? Have you Heard of Bark?
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