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DISCORD PARENT’S GUIDE: How to Keep Your Kids Safe

If your kids are starting to play computer games, it is possible that soon you’re going to hear about Discord. Here is some important information about Discord for you to know what kids are doing to play online

Discord is a chat app. It’s quite popular within the gaming community, but it has gained popularity within other niches as well since many companies and schools have adopted the program for remote work and teaching.

Discord allows users to communicate over text, voice and/or video, through channels, groups, or private chats

The app became popular among gamers for being a good meeting point option: it is possible to play online and talk to people on a Discord voice channel at the same time. In addition, there is the streaming option, which is when someone streams their computer screen live so that other people can see their game. 

Another strength is the communities Discord forms. There are servers of the most varied themes, where users can discuss news, ask questions, give out advice and even find other players to play together. 

How Discord works

To better understand how it works, we are first going to explain its structure. If your kids are on Discord, it is important to know the following details. 

  • Server: Servers are spaces on Discord. They’re like cities in a country, created by specific communities or friend groups. According to Discord, most servers are small-sized and only for guests – in other words, they’re private and you need an authorization to be a part of them. Some servers are public. Any user can create a new server for free and invite their friends to be a part of it. 
  • Channel: Servers are organized by voice and text channels. Many servers organize channels over specific topics and may have different rules. On text channels, users can post messages, upload files, and share messages with other users. On voice channels, users can connect through voice or video calls in real time, in addition to being able to stream their screen for their friends to see. It’s also possible to send private messages to other users and create private group chats with up to 10 participants, to which access is only by invitation. It’s also possible to create private channels with fewer users – in this case, only the participants of such a channel can see the messages posted there. 

Is Discord for kids?

According to Discord’s Terms of Service, it requires that users are at least 13 years old to access the app or the website. This is done by date of birth confirmation during the registration that gives access to Discord. If the user is under 13 years of age, the account is blocked. Of course, many kids know this and type in another date of birth so that they can create an account, just like in many other websites and apps. 

Discord takes some precautions to make their user’s experience safer, regardless of age: 

  • As we explained, most Discord groups are private and only guests are allowed in. 
  • All chats are optional; that is, each user chooses who can add them as a friend, who can send them messages and what kind of content they can receive. 
  • Discord doesn’t share personal information, including contact information and private chats. The app doesn’t ask for a real name when you create an account and it doesn’t sell their users’ data to advertisers. 

If your kid is younger than 13 and is already on Discord, be aware that this is not in accordance with the platform’s rules. Maybe you can both reach an agreement to migrate to another platform where kids are allowed, but we know this may be a challenging task. If they don’t budge and you decide not to forbid your kid from playing with their friends on Discord, you need to pay attention to the following issues

:: Read Also: ROBLOX: How to keep kids safe in the game ::

Set to increase safety 

Discord doesn’t have parental controls, but there are some settings that can make your kids safer there. In order to do that, open Discord and search the navigation menu for User Settings, which has a gear icon, and then click on Privacy and Security. There are many options there that you can either turn on or off. Here are some tips:

  • Safe and Direct Message: For underage users, it’s recommended that the option Keep me Safe is activated, so that it’s possible to analyze direct messages from everyone. 
  • Who can friend you: Here it’s advised that only the option Friends of Friends, in order to have more control over who can add your kids as friends, but without trimming their friends circle completely. If you prefer that only server members are allowed to add your kids, that’s also possible, but remember: there are game servers with a lot of users. You may even choose to select none of these options. In this case, your kids won’t receive any friend requests, but they can still send them to other people. 
  • Blocking other users: if there’s someone bothering your kids, it’s possible to block them. Blocking users prevents them from sending you messages and removes them from your friends list. In addition, it hides the messages sent by this person in any server you two have in common. To do that, you only need to right click on @username and select Block. 

How to report issues on Discord

If you or your kids see hate messages, threats, or any act that goes against Discord’s rules, it’s possible to report it. In order to do that, you need to copy the message link. You can get this link by right clicking on the message, selecting the option “copy message link” and pasting the message over DM (Direct Message, when you send a message directly to Discord) or over the Discord server, both within the platform. 

It’s also possible to send an email by filling out a form that describes what happened. Here, in the option What we can help you?, select the option Trust & Safety. We recommend attaching screenshots of the chat and saving all the message links. The message should be written in English. 

Written by Luisa Scherer

Translated by Mariana Gruber

EDITOR’S NOTE 

Discord was created for people over 13 years old. At this age, teenagers are mature enough to deal with subjects like bullying, they notice more easily when they’re being tricked and they are aware that anyone could be on the other side of the screen. Kids under 13 don’t have the necessary skills yet to notice some of these warnings.

Despite that, Discord is a great platform to play online with friends, and we know it’s one of kids and teenagers’ favorites. If your kids are younger than the minimum age and use it either way, it’s up to each parent to decide whether or not your kids are allowed to be on Discord

We believe it’s possible to keep kids on the platform so long as you’re very attentive. Therefore, make sure your kids know all their Discord friends from real life or make sure that they’re all the same age. It’s also worth asking your kids if you can arrange to talk to their virtual friends’ parents one day, in order to ensure that the kids are, in fact, the same age and that all parents from “both sides” are on the same page. 

If your kids are under 13, we suggest they don’t use headphones when they’re on Discord. It’s easier for you to be attentive this way and notice what is being said in the channels and servers they are a part of. 

Keep an open and recurring dialogue over your kids’ games and the experiences on Discord. Talk to them, be interested in what they play. This makes it all easier when they need your help. Always mention some precautions they should take, such as not accepting friend requests from people they don’t know, asking for your help when they stumble across something unusual and this type of thing. 

Remember that your kids and their friends can also create servers. We recommend reading this to learn how to create a safe Discord server.

How to Find the Best Kids Apps and Games for your Children

There’s a huge amount of applications available in app stores, especially kids apps. How can you decide which apps to download for your kids? How can you know if they’re good or trustworthy? We’ve made a list with 12 tips on how to choose apps for your kids. 

In-app purchases

In-app purchases, i.e. when the apps themselves try to sell “bonus” things, for example, generate frustration in kids and make them anxious to consume what is being offered. 

Certainly, balance is key: there’s no problem in offering one thing or two to improve the experience of the users, but doing this in excess to the point it causes anxiety in users can be dangerous. 

Apps with ads

Try to choose apps without ads. Research indicates that advertising for kids in apps is more violent and assertive than TV ads. 

According to a Popular Science article based on research published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, regulation of advertising for kids works differently in apps: it’s less effective. To reach its desired efficacy, these advertisements treat kids as tiny adults. However, kids aren’t able to tell the difference, within the app, between the advertisements and the game itself, and that can be harmful

Apps competence icons

Some apps  display their competence icon in their store description. This is quite interesting because you can gauge the skills your kid can develop by using these apps. For example, many educational apps help the literacy process. 

Addictive apps

Some techniques and strategies used by game apps foster user’s addiction. 

There are some child-appropriate apps called “sandbox” in which users create a virtual world and there are barely any obstacles or difficulties that keep the player from reaching their goals, such as losing lives, for example, which usually makes players stop playing. 

Another dynamic that leads to addiction is from games called ‘variable ratio reward’, the same system used in casinos. In these games, the user earns prizes easily every day, with random qualities. 

This dynamic conditions the brain to check the apps daily and, due to facilitators such as the game’s wheel of prizes or the connection to social networks in which users can ask for more lives from their friends, users spend hours coming back to the app in order to check if they can go back to playing it. 

There are many apps with these traits in the market and you need to pay attention to what your kids are consuming. 

But what now? How will I know which apps don’t have such traits?

Overall, kids apps that simulate experiences, such as cooking a dish, reading a book or getting a haircut are great examples because kids can create a connection between virtual experiences and the real world, and vice versa. These apps stimulate kids’ creativity and don’t place them in a world apart from theirs, where they lose track of time. 

Truth and Tales, an app that gathers interactive kids stories, is our first release. For now, the app counts on three available interactive books, four audiobooks, coloring activities and physical exercises. Since the app is updated monthly, we are constantly releasing new incredible content to add to Truth and Tales. 

  • Interactive Stories: The interactive stories are accompanied by a read-along feature, and, as the narrator tells the story, their words light up on the screen – which allows kids to follow along with the narration. In addition, there are mini games and lots of interactivity within the stories which are fun and unexpected, such as shaking the phone and using the microphone. 
  • Audiobooks: The audiobooks tell the same stories as the interactive stories but in audio-only format. We’ve added this option in order for kids to listen to the stories without looking at screens, which is perfect for bedtime or during road trips, for example. 
  • Physical Exercises: Move It-Move It is the physical activity section of Truth and Tales. It proposes that kids move their bodies by imitating the animals drawn on the cards. Kids can draw three cards and choose which of their animals to imitate. If they don’t want any of them, it’s possible to draw new cards from the deck. The postures are inspired by the practice of Tai Chi and Yoga. Kids develop their strength, flexibility, stability and body awareness through these exercises. There is no pre-established workout: kids can copy as many and whatever animals they want to, without a minimum or maximum number of cards. 
  • Coloring Activity: The Artist’s Gallery offers black and white drawings that kids can color as they wish. Kids are free to choose the colors they want and to paint the drawings they prefer with different paint brushes and textures. In the Artist’s Gallery, there are no rules to be followed, which allows kids to let their imagination and creativity flow. 

:: You can also read: ROBLOX: How to keep kids safe in the game ::

Content Ratings

Only download apps that are in accordance with your kid’s age. If your kid is not within the age rating of the app, it’s because the content is too difficult or there are elements within the app that weren’t designed for people outside the rating’s age range, such as violence, nudity, guns and/or drug usage.

Blue light filter

The blue light filter is there to protect your kid’s sleep, so that it isn’t affected by the apps when they are used at night. There are several available apps that have this feature.

Number of Downloads and Feedbacks

Checking the app’s number of downloads and their reviews are good references to decide if they’re worth it, if they work, and if the developer is readily available to fix bugs and respond to user comments.

Storytelling 

Storytelling is how the story is told, whether that happens through games, educational apps, or videos. There’s always a story and a context behind things. It is important to check if your kids can keep up with the narrative’s complexity and if said narrative fits their context. 

Type of Apps (e.g. Game, Social, Video, Educational)

It’s nice to keep an eye on the types of apps your kids want to download. Keeping a balance between games, books, video and educational apps is truly worth it. It’s also worth remembering that social apps such as Facebook and Instagram are only allowed to 13 year-olds or older.

Seals and Awards

Having seals and awards means quality, since the app has been reviewed and judged by people who aren’t the developers and also “competed”/”was compared” against other apps for seals and awards.

Company

We recommend that you always research the company that develops the games and apps. Does it have a website? Has it developed other apps? Is there a FAQ section?

Checking the company gives you more security if you ever have questions or problems to solve involving the app. 

Parental Control 

Parental Control is an essential tool in kids apps since it keeps kids from making some decisions without the parents, such as making purchases without permission, watching inappropriate content, and so on. 

Written by Luisa Scherer

Translated by Mariana Gruber