Is Discord Safe for Kids? A Comprehensive Parent’s Guide

Discord is a popular chat app that allows users to meet and bond over shared interests. But before their child logs on, parents should know the risks and safety procedures to keep them safe.
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Discord is a social networking, community-based app that allows users to create individual servers to chat, share ideas, and even do various kinds of work. While the platform was adopted early on by the gaming community, it now boasts over 563 million registered Discord users worldwide, up from 456 million last year.[1] The company’s revenue continues to grow at an impressive rate (2020 saw 188% growth) so you know use won’t be slowing down soon.[1]

We'll go over the risks of using Discord, how to set parental controls on Discord, and how to keep kids safe online with the best antivirus software.

In this article
Is Discord safe for kids?
What are the risks of using Discord?
Why are kids using Discord?
7 most popular Discord servers for kids and teens
How to keep your kids safe while using Discord
7 Discord settings to enable on your child’s account
How does Discord compare to TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, and Reddit?
Bottom line

Is Discord safe for kids?

Discord’s security depends on the permissions you set and the way your child uses it. Discord does use basic encryption but wasn’t designed for end-to-end encryption like a messaging app or VPN.

Keywords Studios, an external development partner for video games, wants to make sure Discord users know how to configure permissions for maximum security.

One other potential security issue to note is that Discord has changed the way usernames are displayed to remove four-digit discriminators. While this may look cleaner, the new format can make it easier to identify your child.

Kids are more apt to use identifying information in their screen names. First and last names along with birthdays or address numbers are popular for screen names as well as school and street names. Talk with your child about how to make a safe and secure username that doesn’t expose their privacy.

Ultimately, security comes down to what your child shares online. If your kid wants to use Discord, you’ll likely need to have a safety talk before and frequently after they start using it.

What are the risks of using Discord?

Discord is kind of a free-for-all. While the platform does try to filter message requests from strangers into a separate section, kids are still able to meet people openly in public chatrooms.

While this can be a great way to learn and connect with others with similar interests, there’s always the chance of a negative interaction.

Additionally, unless the proper filters are in place, your child can stumble onto a lot of adult content. Some of it is perfectly fine if you’re an adult, but there are plenty of servers that openly violate Discord’s user agreement. More than 17,000 Discord servers were removed from the platform in Q4 2022 for this reason.[4]

In Q4 2022, over 17,000 Discord servers were removed due to child safety concerns.

Cyberbullying

From a parent's perspective, cyberbullying isn’t an immediate idea of what kids can encounter on the internet. Unfortunately, it happens a lot.

Something about people interacting from behind a screen makes them far more likely to act in ways they wouldn’t in public. Talk to your kids about the Discord channels they’re on and if everyone is treating each other with respect.

Make sure your kids know how to take screenshots on their devices and how to report people who may be bullying them or others.

Online predators

This is where Discord really fails kids. There are countless stories of parents finding out that their kids are having age-inappropriate conversations with other kids and even adults on the platform.

Since Discord is open to anyone, a predator can easily enter a public chat and make a connection with your kid. Again, talking with your kids and knowing how to report someone is crucial. You should also be discussing safety and smart online practices with them.

Catfishing

Catfishing is when someone poses as someone else. This can be teenagers pranking each other but it could also be a predator attempting to lure your child to a private location.

This scenario is possible on Discord through the text and voice channels. Remind your kids they need to be wary of strangers and teach them how to recognize catfishing, even if the interaction seems legit.

Scams

Do you have a friend who always knows how to get a discount on something? There are a variety of Discord servers out there offering free or reduced prices on everything from gaming equipment to food. Sorting out what’s real from the scams can be difficult even for a seasoned professional.

An example of a crypto scam sent by DM on Discord.

One example is a Discord Nitro scam. While Discord Nitro is a legitimate paid upgrade to the app that gives users extra perks like personalized emojis and larger file uploads, it’s likely a scam if anyone but the official Discord app offers it.

Scammers try to DM potential victims and offer them a free Discord Nitro account. Unfortunately, the link to get the account leads to a spoofed site that steals any info you enter, including your Discord login details and credit card numbers.

Make sure your kids know to never give financial information and to only pay someone with your permission.

Why are kids using Discord?

Parents of gamers may know their servers are a list of gaming chats and tip-sharing. But what are other uses for Discord?

Most kids create private chatrooms to share thoughts, images, jokes, and information with friends and new potential friends. Since you can create private servers on Discord, it makes it easy for kids to get together online and communicate.

They may also be using tools like Midjourney, which is an AI image generator. Other types of private servers do shady things like get you secret discounts. These servers usually “have a guy” who will place your order for you and then ask you for half or less of the purchase price to be transferred to them via CashApp or Venmo. 

This situation has a high potential for scamming. Discord’s team usually flags these servers, and then you get a policy violation email. (Not that we know from experience…)

How are kids and teens using Discord?

Since Discord is both a desktop and mobile application, kids and teens can take their conversations with them from home to school to practice or even on a family vacation.

For those ages 13 to 17, 30% have used Discord and 2 out of 3 say they like it.[2] Whether they want to stay updated on the latest gaming news or don’t want to experience FOMO on vacation while their friends get together, they have access to that through a Discord server. Kids even have the ability to create voice channels and talk through the platform.

Additionally, there are channels teaching kids about financial awareness, coding, and even NFTs. But gaming remains the main focus of Discord, with 50% of gamers aged 16 to 29 using the app, making it the second most popular social media platform behind YouTube for people in the age range (above TikTok and Instagram).[3]

Discord is used by 50% of gamers ages 16-29.

But not all communications are altruistic, which is likely what most parents’ concern is regarding social media like Discord.

How do voice chats and messages work?

Different Discord servers can have different approaches to chat channels and messages. Some servers have channels that are video- and voice-chat capable while some have text-only channels. Discord users also have the ability to directly message a specific user if they’d like.

Discord has text channels (designated by a # in front of the channel name) and voice channels (designated by a speaker icon).

Voice channels

Voice channels are a great alternative to using the phone. They allow users to hop into a channel together and chat without having to disclose a personal phone number. You can talk, video chat, share your screen, or even go live and stream your video game within these channels.

You can spot a Discord voice channel by looking for the speaker icon next to the channel name.

Text channels

A text channel is like the Yahoo chatrooms of old. A server is set up and anyone within the server can send and reply to messages.

The channels have a pound sign, or hashtag as the kids say, in front of the channel name and can be themed or just general chat. You access them through the main dashboard in Discord by clicking on the channel.

Direct messages (DMs)

Discord direct messages (DMs) can be sent from people your kids are friends with or by strangers.

Direct messages, or DMs, can be sent from people your kids are friends with — or by strangers or people they’ve yet to connect with via Discord.

Discord does have some message filtering options and may put messages from people not on your contact list in a “Message Requests” folder for you to view separately.

Can you share images and videos?

Discord does allow file sharing, including images and videos. This is about the time parents may start to cringe a little.

While image, video, and file sharing can be completely harmless, it can also be full of issues for your child or teen. Even if the file isn’t graphic in nature, it does have the potential to contain malware.

  1. Purple Prison: A Minecraft-focused server for kids.
  2. Mad Kids: NFT, financial education, and investments that may even allow kids to make passive income.
  3. Cryptopunk Kids: An Ethereum-based server for kids wanting to learn more about that particular cryptocurrency.
  4. Osiris Metaverse: A 2D metaverse game for mobile and PC.
  5. Sigma Nation: A community-based server for kids into anime, superheroes, or just looking to connect.
  6. Crypto Birds Cafe: This server is dedicated to a new NFT collection by the same name.
  7. Kull Keeds: This server is for chatting and making friends.

How to keep your kids safe while using Discord

Discord has several different ways parents can filter and screen their child’s content on the server.

Parents have the ability to disable direct messaging, set up age restrictions to limit what servers their children can join, filter explicit content, and set other permissions that help them keep their child safe.

If you’re looking for an extra layer of cybersecurity, you can invest in antivirus software. Many of the best antivirus programs come with features like parental controls and gaming settings to ensure a safe and smooth online experience. Here are three antivirus recommendations to keep your kids safe:

  • Norton: Norton 360 is known for its top-performing antivirus and additional cybersecurity features. With Norton’s parental controls, parents can see their kids’ online searches and video views, and they can use age-appropriate monitoring and settings to control screen time limits.

    Get Norton 360 | Read Our Norton 360 Review

  • McAfee: McAfee is a great antivirus for family protection. You can install it on unlimited devices, including your children's devices, and it offers plenty of safety features for kids, like parental controls and identity theft protection.

    Get McAfee | Read Our McAfee+ Premium Review

  • Bitdefender: Bitdefender is another antivirus with a comprehensive set of parental controls. Its dashboard provides data on screen time, applications used, and websites visited, and you can block or allow content based on categories to prevent your kids from viewing harmful content.

    Get Bitdefender | Read Our Bitdefender Review

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Do your kids use TikTok too?

You can also set up parental controls to better protect them from online predators and cyberbullying. Find out how in our guide on how to make TikTok safe for kids.

7 Discord settings to enable on your child’s account


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1. Enable explicit content filters

1. Begin by heading into the Privacy & Safety section of Discord’s settings.

Most of Discord's safety features can be enabled by opening your Discord settings and going to Privacy & Safety.

2. Look for the Explicit Image Filter section.

Select “Filter all direct messages” to block explicit content from both friends and strangers.

Check "Filter all direct messages" to block explicit images sent to your child via DM.


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2. Limit friend requests

You can control who your child is able to connect with by filtering their friend request settings. Discord’s privacy and safety settings give parents the ability to adjust who can add their child as a friend. Here’s how to set it up:

1. Open Discord and head to the Friend Requests section of your Settings.

2. Here you can choose to allow Everyone, Friends of Friends, or only mutual Server Members to send friend requests. Toggle each one on or off as you see fit.

You can restrict who sends your child friend requests to friends of friends and/or server members — or you can choose to allow everyone to send friend requests.

The Everyone setting means your child’s profile is available for adding as a friend to anyone on Discord. This is likely the setting you’d want to avoid.

Friends of Friends could be OK in a controlled environment, but that opens your child up to strangers who might have friended a less safety-savvy peer.

If you’re monitoring your child’s server participation, Server Members allows only people in the servers your child is participating in to add them as friends. While this last option still has some security concerns, it is the easiest to monitor.

You may also want to toggle off Sync Contacts and remove the ability for others to send your child friend requests using their phone number or email.

You may also want to restrict how other Discord users can add your child as a friend. Under the Discovery Permissions section, Discord lets you choose to allow people to add you using your phone number or email, but since this is personal data that could reveal further information about your child, it’s best to leave them toggled off.


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3. Restrict who can send direct messages

1. Within Discord’s settings, click Privacy & Safety, and then scroll to the Server Privacy Defaults section.

2. Turn off “Allow direct messages from server members.” A message should then appear asking if you’d like to apply the change to all existing servers.

3. Next, scroll down a bit further and turn off “Enable message requests from server members you may not know.”

You can limit who can send your child messages in Discord by toggling off "Allow direct messages from server members" and "Enable message requests from server members you may not know."


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4. Restrict Discord data tracking and usage

1. In Discord’s Privacy & Safety setting, find the How We Use Your Data section.

2. Toggle off “Use data to improve Discord” and “Use data to customize my Discord experience.” This stops the service from using your child’s data for analytics purposes.

You can turn off Discord's data logging to protect your child's privacy on the app.


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5. Ask Discord to hide image and video previews

Hiding image and video previews can further protect your child from accidentally viewing inappropriate content. Here’s how to turn off previews:

1. Open your Discord settings dashboard and scroll down to Text & Media.

To hide image and video previews in Discord, first go to the Text & Media section of your Settings.

2. In the first section, Display Images, Videos, and Lolcats, toggle off “When posted as links to chat” and “When uploaded directly to Discord.”

To block image and video previews, toggle off "When posted as links to chat" and "When uploaded directly to Discord."


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6. Add two-factor authentication (2FA)

Setting up 2FA for Discord requires a few steps, but luckily there’s a step-by-step guide provided in Discord’s support section. We used Google Authenticator, and it made the process seamless and quick.


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7. Learn how to block users

1. To block someone, click their username.

To block someone on Discord, click their username and look for the three horizontal dots in the upper-right corner.

2. That takes you to their profile where you can click the three dots in the upper right corner.

3. From there, click the “Block” button. Now that person can’t contact you again.

Once you click the three horizontal dots on a user's profile, you'll see options to Block, Add Friend, or Copy Username.

How does Discord compare to TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, and Reddit?

Discord vs. TikTok

These platforms are vastly different. Discord is an app where you create channels and can chat and share images and videos within the channels.

TikTok is completely video-based. While you can leave comments on TikTok, the discussion isn’t the main focus of the app. Also, since there’s no real community on TikTok, there’s less one-on-one interaction.

Discord vs. TikTok pros and cons

Pros
  • Discord has more options for personal connection
  • TikTok allows users to scroll information quickly
  • It’s easier to focus interest on Discord through specific servers
Cons
  • Discord has more potential for bullying, especially in large groups
  • TikTok’s format is proven to be addictive

Discord vs. Instagram

Instagram used to be just a nice place to share pictures, but after Meta purchased the platform it became an advertising hub.

In an effort to compete with TikTok, Instagram began pushing its Reels on users of the platform. Instagram also changed its algorithm last year to deliver 30% of content coming from recommendations rather than what users choose to see.

Discord vs. Instagram pros and cons

Pros
  • Discord doesn’t show scammy or spammy advertisements
  • Instagram has a cleaner feel to the app
  • Discord is more customizable
Cons
  • Discord doesn’t allow you to discover new topics as easily
  • Instagram falls under the Meta umbrella and the company’s dicey privacy laws

Discord vs. Snapchat

Snapchat’s platform is built on the idea that nothing is saved forever. Except Snapchat does save everything you do on the app for 30 days.

Kids like Snapchat because they can send messages that then get deleted, but that also opens your child up to a host of potential abuse, including Snapchat scams.

In contrast, keeping logs on Discord can help you track down and bring to justice someone who may have bullied or solicited your child. There are various browser extensions for logging, but most people use the Discord app rather than logging in on a browser.

For the app, there’s the Logger Bot for Discord. There are tutorials on how to set it up, but your best bet is to check your child’s Discord and ensure the appropriate settings are toggled on or off.

Discord vs. Snapchat pros and cons

Pros
  • Discord logs can help with bringing criminals to justice
  • Snapchat alerts you if someone takes a screenshot of the chat
  • Discord allows for customizable group chats with interests at the forefront
Cons
  • Discord doesn’t alert you when another user takes a screenshot
  • Snapchat has a location map showing exactly where you are

Discord vs. Reddit

These are probably the most similar out of all the comparisons. Reddit is another interest-based website that allows users to interact with one another.

The biggest difference is that Reddit doesn’t operate on the same real-time chat format that Discord does, so users are commenting rather than chatting. Both platforms allow a lot of anonymity but also have the potential for exploitation and abuse.

Discord vs. Reddit pros and cons

Pros
  • Discord allows for live chat
  • Reddit makes it easier to avoid someone unpleasant
  • Discord has a cleaner reading format
Cons
  • Discord’s live chat can lead to catfishing, exploitation, and abuse
  • Reddit is more cluttered looking and can be more difficult to navigate for inexperienced users

Bottom line

Overall, Discord does try to have some safety precautions built in but there’s a lot of potential for bullying, catfishing, exploitation, abuse, and access to age-inappropriate content.

It is possible to allow your child to participate in Discord servers with minimal exposure to negative things, but you’ll need to be proactive about checking their activity in the app and chatting with them about the risks.

Additionally, increasing the security of your child’s device with strong antivirus software and the best VPNs can help keep them safe from scammers, creeps, and hackers. Discussing the pros and cons of the app with your children can help you determine if you feel they’re ready to use it. Ultimately, you’re the parent and you choose how your child interacts with others online.

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Author Details
Mary is a seasoned cybersecurity writer with over seven years of experience. With a B.S. in Liberal Arts from Clarion University and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Point Park University, she educates audiences on scams, antivirus software, and more. Her passion lies in educating audiences on helpful ways to protect their data.

Citations

[1] Discord Revenue and Usage Statistics (2023)

[2] Attitudes and Usage of Social App Discord Among Users in the United States as of September 2022, by Age Group

[3] Most Popular Social Media Platforms for Gamers in the United States in Regards to Gaming as of August 2022, by Age Group

[4] Number of Discord Servers Removed from the Platform in 4th Quarter 2022, by Violation