What is Discord?
Discord is an internet platform on which users post text and images, send direct messages, and take part in video and voice calls. The platform can be accessed through a browser or via an app.
Discord users can set up private servers to host conversations and group video calls. Like other social media platforms, Discord is used mostly for socializing. Discord servers are especially popular with online gamers who use voice channels on Discord to communicate while playing.
Some aspects of Discord are similar to other social platforms like Facebook or Instagram. People can accept friend requests to connect with peers, share images and links, and hang out online.
What are the age requirements for joining Discord?
Discord requires users to state that they are over 13 years of age to create an account. However, although Discord does have some age verification systems in place, unsupervised children may still be able to bypass them and access the site.
How does Discord work?
To understand how Discord works, you first need to understand Discord servers. A server acts as a private online forum, segmented into a number of channels. Server members can post text, images, and video links in a channel or engage in voice and video chats with multiple users.
Whoever sets up the server has admin rights, allowing them to add and remove members, ban certain words or content, and set up new server channels. An admin can also give other users admin rights.
Without ever joining a specific server, individual users can also send each other friend requests and communicate directly through private messages.
Fundamentally, Discord is a relatively simple platform designed to allow communities to form and exist online. But how safe is it?
Is Discord safe?
You can use Discord safely, as long as you’re careful and avoid common Discord risk factors.
Like any social media platform, Discord does require some personal information from its users, and that data could be leaked if Discord suffers a data breach. This isn’t unique to Discord — when you entrust a big company with information like your email, passwords, and location data, there is always a possibility that your data could find its way into the wrong hands.
How safe Discord is really depends on two things: the types of servers you join, and the precautionary steps you take to protect yourself along the way. First among those steps is proper management of Discord’s privacy and security settings.
Use Discord’s privacy and security settings
To make sure you’re using Discord’s privacy and security settings to stay as safe as possible, follow these steps:
- Change who can send you direct messages. You can limit the direct message function to ensure that only trusted friends are able to contact you.
- Change who can add you as a friend. In your settings, choose whether “everyone” can send you requests or just “friends of friends.” If you want to be even safer, you can limit friend requests to members of a specific private server.
- Automatically delete messages that contain explicit content. If you enable this function, unwanted explicit messages will be screened and deleted before you can see them.
- Decide whether the app can collect your data. Discord allows you to decide how much of your information it stores. While some data collection is inevitable, being able to change these settings gives you a little more control over the process.
- Block and report users. If you don’t want to be contacted by specific users, you can block them and even report them for misbehavior if you think their actions are breaking the terms of Discord’s user agreement (for example, engaging in identity theft or bullying).
What risks and concerns does Discord pose?
Discord users face a variety of threats, from bullying and exposure to explicit content to malware and phishing scams.
Because the site allows users to post and message links to other webpages, hackers can easily spread links to servers where malicious software is housed. Discord malware threats are particularly prevalent on larger servers, where admins may struggle to moderate content. If a server is public — that is, if anyone can join it without admin approval — the risks of malware links are much higher.
Some servers may also contain explicit images and videos, and while users who post this kind of material sometimes tag their servers with a NSFW (not safe for work) content warning, some do not. For a young person with their own Discord account, the risk of exposure to inappropriate content is hard to mitigate.
Discord also has the same problems that any social media network has: human interactions. Cyberbullying and harassment take place on Discord as much as they do on any other site where strangers are able to communicate without having to use their real names.
Of course, the level of risk you will deal with as a Discord user largely comes down to the kinds of servers you choose to join.
Can joining a Discord server be dangerous?
The act of joining a Discord server is not, in itself, dangerous. A forum may be run by a user, and they could be posting links to malware-ridden websites, but the server itself still belongs to Discord. Just connecting to it won’t initiate a malicious file transfer.
Joining a Discord server that is poorly moderated could be dangerous in the long term, however. You might end up clicking on a URL that takes you to a malware-delivery page or exposing private information in a phishing attack.
As a rule, it is best not to join a Discord server unless you know who is running it. Once you’ve connected, don’t click on any links that would redirect you to other pages outside of Discord. That goes for both adults and children.
How to keep your child safe on Discord
Children should not use Discord until they are 13 or older. Once a young person has a Discord account, follow these useful principles for keeping them safe.
Manage privacy and security settings
Don’t just rely on Discord’s default settings. Once you have set up your child’s Discord account, limit friend requests to “Friends of friends” and block direct messages from strangers.
Avoid unknown friend requests
Encourage children to ignore friend requests from strangers. Better yet, set their account to block messages from anyone they’re not already friends with. This is a key part of internet safety for teens.
Don’t join public servers
Avoiding large public servers is probably the best way to prevent exposure to inappropriate content. Children should join smaller servers populated by people they know — friends and peers rather than strangers.
Avoid suspicious links and attachments
Avoiding interactions with links and attachments is a good rule for any Discord user, including children. Even if the link comes from a trusted friend, there’s always a chance that their account has been hacked and that the link could still lead to malware. To add further protection against potential malware infection, get NordVPN and use its Threat Protection feature to block websites known to spread malware.
Don’t give your personal information to anyone
Never give away personal information online. Hackers can use details about your location, contact numbers, age, or gender to steal your identity. Encourage children on Discord not to reveal personal details about themselves or their family, regardless of who they’re talking to.
Get Discord updates from official sources only
While it’s important to keep your Discord app updated — regular updates boost security and performance — never download software patches from unofficial sources. At best, these could cause bugs and glitches, and at worst they might spread malware onto your device.
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