Should I let my child use Discord?


What is Discord?

Discord is an instant messaging and chat platform that allows users to communicate using voice, video or text. It is popular with the gaming community who use it to talk to people during gameplay, and swap tips about different types of games. However, recently it has grown its user base and is now used by others outside the gaming community.

It has an age-rating of 13+.

How does Discord work?

Users talk to each other on the platform via servers. A server is like a message board, where people can meet and chat to others who have similar interests to them. Each server is focused on a different theme or topic. There are servers dedicated to discussing anything from Fortnite, to food. Any user can create a server and invite people to it.

There are two different types of servers:

  • text – lets users share text messages and images
  • voice – these are like group voice chats. Anyone can join at any time and listen to the conversation in real-time (except invitation-only servers). Normally there is also a chat function. All voice servers have a speaker icon next to them. You can have private, invite-only servers as well as public, all-access ones.

What do young people think about Discord?

Young people who have contacted Childline have described the platform as being a good place to meet new people outside of their normal social circle. Some also spoke about it being somewhere they can explore romantic connections and talk to others with similar interests to them.

However, they also reported experiencing abuse and harassment on the platform. Some also shared that they had been exposed to harmful and inappropriate content on the app.

Is Discord safe?

Your child could come across inappropriate or harmful content

Some of the servers on Discord are themed around adult topics that might not be suitable for your child. There are also reports of harmful and illegal content being shared on the platform.

It puts your child in contact with adults or other young people who might want to cause them harm

Anyone over the age of 13 can join public servers on Discord. This could put your child at risk of communicating with someone who might not have their best interests at heart and wants to cause them harm.

Puts them at risk of experiencing abuse or bullying

Some people behave differently online to how they would offline. This puts children and young people at an increased risk of being bullied on platforms like Discord.

They could be pressured to send money to other users

here is an option to donate to servers they follow or join paid-only servers on the platform.

Are there any safety features available on Discord?

Keep me safe

This setting automatically scans and deletes direct messages that may contain content that goes against its community guidelines.

To enable this setting:

  • go to ‘User settings’
  • select ‘Privacy and safety’
  • then ‘Safe direct messaging’
  • you will then need to select ‘Keep me safe’.

Be aware though that this only scans for media content and it won’t pick up text that contains inappropriate or offensive language.

Manage private messages

There are different settings available that will help manage who can contact your child on the platform. By default, your child can be sent a private, direct message (most likely referred to as a DM) by other users who are in the same server as them.

You can disable this by going to:

  • ‘User settings’
  • ‘Privacy and safety’
  • then select ‘Server privacy default’
  • move the ‘Allow direct messages from server members’ toggle to off.

Manage friend requests

You can also manage who can send your child a friend request. Being ‘Friends’ on Discord means you can communicate outside of servers. You can access this setting by:

  • going into ‘User Settings’
  • selecting ‘Privacy & Safety’
  • ‘Who Can Add You As A Friend’.

You will then be given three options to help you manage who can add them.

These include:

  • everyone – anyone on the platform can add them
  • friends of friends – selecting this means that your child will be able to receive friend requests from users who they have mutual friends with ·
  • server members – this means that your child can added by anyone who has joined the same server as them.

If you don’t want your child to receive any requests, you can deselect all three options. However, this won’t stop them from sending out friend requests.

You should make sure to talk to your child about not accepting friend requests from users they don’t know.

"On an app called Discord, someone sent me a link to an 18+ website. I didn’t know what it was until I clicked on it. I’m struggling with what I saw. I feel disgusted and ashamed of myself. I need help thinking about something different to distract myself. I tried listening to music earlier to distract myself but then I started thinking about it again."
Girl, 13 years

Top tips to help keep your child safe on Discord

Talk to them about who they are talking to

It’s important to have regular conversations with your child about who they are talking to online. Discuss what apps they are using and set rules around who they can speak to and when.

Remind them to not share personal information on Discord, even with people they know offline.

Tell them to come to you if they come across inappropriate content

Make sure your child knows they can come to you if they see something inappropriate online. You should also remind them that they can always speak to a Childline Counsellor, or another trusted adult if they’d prefer.

The important thing is that they know there is support there if they need it.

Explore other age-appropriate chat apps

If your child enjoys talking to their friends online, you might also want to explore other chat platforms. For example, ones that have more safety settings or parental controls.

Worried about a child?

Contact our Helpline by calling 0808 800 5000 or emailing [email protected].

Children can contact Childline any time to get support themselves.

Get support