If you have a tween, I’m fairly sure you’ve had numerous discussions and internal debates on how much you are willing to allow your child to be exposed online. I can bet your child has started nagging you about letting them use certain platforms, too, right? Between various social media networks, chat sites, and online gaming – it can be overwhelming. Never mind navigating multiple opinions and horror stories.
It may be tempting to just say a resounding ‘NO!’ to anything online. However, as our tweens get older and the world becomes more reliant on the online environment, this may not be the most practical approach. The next option is to educate ourselves on the benefits and dangers of the different platforms and help guide our children towards using them safely, at the proper stages, and in an age-appropriate fashion.
One such platform that has become increasingly popular amongst the tween age group is Discord. If your child hasn’t given you the rundown yet, it is a chat app designed for gamers, but it has since grown to include communities of all interests. It’s a great way for tweens to connect with friends and share their interests, but like with all online community platforms, it’s essential to be aware of the potential dangers and to take steps to ensure your child’s safety.
What is Discord?
Discord is a communication app designed for gamers. It allows users to chat, voice chat, and share files with others in their community. Users can create or join “servers”, which are chat rooms focused on a particular topic or interest. Servers can be public or private, and users can choose which servers to join or create their own. You can’t search for public servers, so your child must be invited to one by a friend or create their own.
The benefits of a platform like Discord
Online communities may seem scary to a parent, but it is not all doom and gloom. There are some definite positives for allowing your tween to use them safely. Research has found that online chat communities can provide a positive environment for tweens to interact with others and develop social skills. This is especially true for tweens who may struggle with social interactions in person.
Online chat communities can also provide tweens access to diverse communities of people with similar interests. This can help them develop a sense of identity and belonging.
Your tween may feel more comfortable expressing themselves online than in person. Discord can provide an outlet for tweens to express themselves creatively and develop their communication skills.
Like when you were growing up, not everything is learned in a classroom. Discord servers focused on educational topics can allow tweens to learn and explore new topics outside the classroom.
And probably the most crucial benefit is that letting your tween use a platform like Discord can assist them in developing technology skills that are becoming increasingly important in today’s world.
Dangers of Discord
While Discord can be a fun and safe way for tweens to connect with friends, there are also potential dangers that parents should be aware of. One of the biggest concerns is the risk of child predators.
Child predators can use Discord to groom and prey on children. They may create fake accounts and pose as children or teens to gain the trust of their victims. They may also use servers geared towards children or teens to find potential victims. It is important to note that the servers have moderators that patrol this on the chat forums. However, it is essential that private messages are monitored if your tween is on a server with anyone they don’t know personally.
Another potential danger of Discord is cyberbullying. Because Discord allows users to create private servers and direct message each other, it can be a platform for bullies to target their victims. Additionally, since gamers often use Discord, a competitive or hostile environment may lead to bullying.
Parental controls for Discord
Discord does offer some parental controls that can help parents ensure their child’s safety. You can set up a “family” account on Discord and link your child’s account to it. This allows you to monitor your child’s activity and control who they can communicate with.
To set up a family account, you must first create your own account on Discord. Then add your child’s account as a “child” account. Now you can set restrictions on your tweens account, such as disabling direct messaging, limiting access to specific servers, and disabling file sharing.
You can also try out third-party apps like Qustodio and Bark to monitor your child’s activity on Discord. These apps will allow you to receive alerts if your tween receives a message that contains inappropriate content or if they try to communicate with someone who isn’t on their approved contact list.
Child Accounts on Discord
When creating a Discord account for your child, setting it up as a child account is important. Child accounts have additional safety features that are not available on regular accounts. For example, child accounts can only join servers marked as “safe for kids” by Discord. Additionally, child accounts cannot be directly messaged by users who are not on their approved contact list.
To set up a child account, you’ll need to provide your tweens birthdate when creating the account. Discord will automatically detect if the user is under 13 and set up the account as a child account.
Making sure your child’s settings are safe on Discord
Even with parental controls and child accounts, it’s vital to ensure your tween’s settings are safe. Here are some steps you can take to ensure your child’s safety on Discord:
- Set up a family account and link your child’s account to it.
- Set restrictions on your child’s account, such as disabling direct messaging, limiting access to certain servers, and disabling file sharing.
- Monitor your child’s activity on Discord regularly.
- Talk to your child about online safety and the dangers of connecting with strangers online. Encourage them to only connect with people they know (and you know) in real life and to report any suspicious or inappropriate behaviour to you.
- Teach your child about the importance of privacy online. Get them to use a nickname instead of their real name and never share personal information like their address or phone number.
- Check the servers your tween is a member of and make sure they are appropriate for their age and interests. If you find an inappropriate server, ask your child to leave the server and report it to you.
- Make a rule that your tween can only join servers marked as “safe for kids” by Discord. These servers have been reviewed by Discord and deemed appropriate for children under the age of 13.