We recently released a video with the support of our friends Safe Surfer about Discord. Kids are all about it – as of March 2019, there are over 250 million users on Discord. Basically, it’s an online community where you can meet people who like the same games as you. You can do things like post photos, send voice messages, and share links.
Discord is what we’re going to be talking about throughout this article, but don’t stop reading just because you’ve never heard of it. We think these ideas are applicable across a whole lot of connection based apps, so keep reading if you’ve got kids who are keen to connect online.
It’s so cool for our kids to be able to connect across countries and cultures, but your parenting lens has likely picked up on a few red flags in sight (and on the site). Who’s on it? What are they sharing? How can I keep them safe when there are 250 million strangers out there?
Things you should know about Discord
- It’s made up of groups, otherwise known as servers. You can only join the server if the person who started it gives you permission. This is where you share things with other users.
- Most servers only have about ten people on them, but there are a few public servers your child could join that have thousands of people engaged.
- Public servers are where content that could be inappropriate is pretty likely to rear its ugly head.
It’s likely that if your child is on Discord, they’re going to come across some things that you’d deem unpleasant. Things like porn and violent content exist on Discord, and nothing in this article or in Discord’s safety settings are foolproof. We definitely don’t have a 100% effective solution to all stranger danger online, but we do have a few things we think will help.
The most effective form of safety precaution when it comes to Discord actually happens to be the cheapest. You can’t plug it in or download it and it requires a bit more effort then switching some iPhone settings, but it’s the best option out there. Healthy communication with you is going to keep your child safer online than anything else ever could.
When it comes to communication, it’ll help to make sure you’re having a two way conversation. Get chatting to your child about why they want to be on Discord, and attempt to understand it.
Having a conversation about explicit content might not feel comfortable at first. It’ll get easier as you go, and it will help you to navigate further tricky conversations in the future (see How to talk to your kids about: Sex). Tailor your conversation to make sure you’re meeting your child where they are. Some things will be appropriate for their age, other things might be worth waiting to talk about. Remember, you’re just getting started, and this is definitely not a one time only chat.
Here are a few conversation starters/questions you could ask –
- What sort of things do you want to look at on Discord?
- How would you react if you saw something really violent on Discord?
- What would you do if someone shared porn with you on Discord?
- Who would you like to connect with on Discord? How do you know if you shouldn’t connect with someone?
- How can I help you to feel comfortable talking about what you see on Discord?
The most important thing to reinforce here is that you’re not going to respond with anger if they tell you they’ve come across something you don’t want them to see. All anger is going to do is stop them from sharing with you.
If your child lets you know they’ve watched porn or seen some other dangerous content online, keep calm and carry on with your conversation. If you’re feeling mad or upset about what they’ve disclosed, process that with another adult. Your child isn’t the best place for you to work through those feelings, and they need your support as they process what they’ve come across.
Like the conversation we suggest you have above, the kind of boundaries that you set should be age appropriate. We also think it’s worth including your child in the conversation about what boundaries are fair. They’re more likely to buy into the boundaries if they helped to set them.
Here are a few ideas of some boundaries and rules you could set around Discord –
- Negotiate a turn off time. You can do this via settings on iPhones, or you can get external hardware from our friends at Safe Surfer that will help you to set up preferences for your household.
- Set up the account together. This means you can help them to set up appropriate privacy and safety measures around who can connect with them and who can’t. You can also set the app up to block inappropriate content (this isn’t fail proof, but it’s a good start).
- Have a weekly check in day. Your child should know that they can talk to you about what they’re seeing at any point, but having a weekly check in helps with consistency around communication. When you check in, make sure you ask your child positive questions as well as ones centred around who they’ve been talking to. It shouldn’t feel like an interrogation.
Discord isn’t the real problem here – the way people use it is. If you keep up the conversations at the same time as setting strong and sustainable boundaries, you’re on the right track to keeping your young person safe online.
This article is a part of a paid partnership between Parenting Place and Safe Surfer.