As a parent in the digital age, it’s crucial to understand the online platforms your children use. One such platform that has gained popularity among young users is Discord. Originally designed for gamers, Discord has evolved into a communication hub for various interests, from academics to crafting. However, like any online platform, it comes with potential risks. This guide aims to help parents navigate Discord’s safety features and understand how to protect their children online.
Discord is a communication platform that allows users to create private servers for voice, video, and text communication. It’s popular among gamers for real-time conversation during gameplay, but its use has expanded to cover a wide range of interests. Discord is intended for users aged 13 and older, and it’s likely that your child may be using it.
While Discord offers a space for community and connection, it also poses unique challenges when it comes to children’s safety. The platform’s user base is diverse, with numerous unmoderated servers and communities. This lack of centralized moderation means children can inadvertently find themselves in environments that may expose them to explicit content, cyberbullying, or interactions with malicious individuals. Discord also allows users to create private chat rooms, making it easier for strangers to initiate conversations with unsuspecting children.
Discord’s Response: The Family Center
To address these concerns, Discord has introduced the Family Center, a feature designed to help parents and guardians monitor their child’s activity on the app. The Family Center includes an activity dashboard and a weekly email report, showing the number of users the child has interacted with, the number of friends they’ve added, and how many servers they’re a member of. However, it does not reveal the content of the child’s messages.
The Family Center is designed to provide parents with the necessary tools to guide their teen’s use of Discord without being overly invasive. It’s likened to knowing who your kids are hanging out with and where they’re going in the physical world, but not listening in on their conversations or micromanaging their relationships.
While the Family Center is a step in the right direction, it’s important to note that it has its limitations. For instance, while parents can now see who their child has added and messaged, they cannot see the contents of messages. The default Discord settings can be unsafe for minors, and kids can still change settings the parent has set, even if they set them up for the ‘safest’ scenario. This means child safety largely relies on voluntary compliance from kids.
What Parents Can Do
As a parent, it’s important to engage in open and constructive conversations with your child about their online activities. The Family Center is a tool that can facilitate these discussions. Here are some steps you can take:
- Educate Yourself: Familiarize yourself with Discord and its features. Understand how it works and the potential risks it poses. This includes understanding that Discord is not just for gamers anymore and that it has evolved to offer something for everyone with dedicated servers for various interests.
- Use the Family Center: Make use of Discord’s Family Center to monitor your child’s activity on the platform. Remember, this tool is not meant to invade your child’s privacy but to help you guide them in their online interactions. This includes understanding who they are interacting with and what servers they are joining.
- Open a Dialogue: Talk to your child about their online activities. Ask them about the servers they’re part of and the friends they’ve made. Encourage them to share their experiences and assure them that they can come to you with any concerns. This is especially important given that Discord is an “opt-in” platform where users actively seek out places to spend time.
- Set Boundaries: Discuss and set boundaries for online interactions. Make sure your child understands the importance of not sharing personal information online and the potential consequences of interacting with strangers. This is crucial given that Discord allows users to create private chat rooms, making it easier for strangers to initiate conversations with unsuspecting children.
- Encourage Safe Practices: Teach your child about safe online practices, such as not clicking on suspicious links and not engaging in conversations with unknown individuals. This is especially important given the lack of centralized moderation on Discord.
In conclusion, while Discord offers a space for connection and community, it’s crucial for parents to be proactive in ensuring their child’s safety. By understanding the platform, using the tools provided, and maintaining open communication with your child, you can help create a safer online environment for them. Remember, it takes a village to protect children online, and as a parent, you are a crucial part of that village. It’s not just about using the tools provided but also about engaging in meaningful conversations with your child about their online activities.