Inside: What is Discord and what parents should understand about the popular teen platform
What Exactly is Discord?
To put it simply, Discord is not easily stuck inside a singular box. Probably the best way to describe Discord would be a multi-purpose communication app. While it certainly has similar elements to other already existing services, what sets Discord apart is that is does the job of many of these services all in one place.
It possess voice chat servers similar to Skype or TeamSpeak. Like Reddit, Discord it is easily used as a public forums center, with a slight difference being that Discord allows private chat forums as well. Discord also possesses elements of some social media apps, as a user is able to share content and host their own “Channel”.
Discord is also just an incredibly user friendly app. The experience of both getting signed up for and using it is simple and seamless. It makes communication with both friends and larger public groups easy and it can be accessed on just about any platform. Furthermore, discord is incredibly well maintained and marketed with constant updates and server maintenance.
On the surface, Discord really appears as the ideal communication service for teens, and in many ways that is true. However, just like any social media app, forum or online community used by teenagers there are some drawbacks. For this reason, it is useful for parents to understand a little bit more about both the pros and cons of Discord.
Why Does My Teen Love It?
Perhaps it seems like your teen is obsessed with the app, or you can just tell that they are spending quite a bit of time using the services it provides. You may be worried or curious, and both of those reactions are justified as we parents haven’t really seen an app like discord ever before, and we certainly didn’t grow up with things like it.
If you were to ask your teen why they love it, they will most likely not be able to nail down one or two specific reasons. They may even question why you ask, as some don’t see it as a love but a necessity. Either way, at first glance those answers can seem suspicious but we’re here to tell you those responses are actually incredibly normal.
Often, the real reason that your teen loves Discord isn’t because they are obsessed with it, but because it makes many of their favorite activities much easier or more enjoyable.
One popular teen usage of Discord is as a voice-chat while playing video games. While some games have their own team-speak services built in, most don’t, and those that do often are not that great. Discord is an easier and higher quality option when your teen wants to talk to their friends they’re playing with. Them and all of their friends can join a chat server within seconds and talk to each other while they game.
Another popular use is for private group chats with their friends. Yes they could just have one over text, but in discord they are often for a specific purpose, sometimes in reference to a particular game or maybe to help each other with a class at school. It’s easy to share attachments and other links on Discord and the server will save them as well. Whatever the purpose, these chats are convenient as Discord can be accessed from pretty much any device you can think of.
Besides private chats, public chats are also incredibly appealing to your teen. If they need help with just about anything from Algebra to college research, there’s a very good chance that they can find a public chat/forum on Discord that can help them. Not only that, but they can often get quick responses from chat members if they have specific questions.
The other part of these public chats is that they can often be fun to socialize in, with some channels hosted by content creators or organizations specifically designed to create a community feeling. It can be an outlet for a teenager that just wants to socialize with people that enjoy the same things they do in a stress free and welcoming environment.
Overall, if you’re looking for a designated reason for your teen’s love of Discord you won’t find one. The novelty that attracts teens is really just that it fills so many roles and on top of that is very easy to use. Not to mention that it’s free.
What Are The Drawbacks?
While Discord may seem like a miracle app, especially to your teen, there are still some things that you should watch out for as a parent.
Like any app that gives your teen open access to the internet, there are bound to be some darker places that you need to make sure your teen avoids. While chat communities set up by content creators or other organizations can often be a great space, there are some communities that are not as teenager-friendly.
While many of these chat communities are private, invite only as to keep them from being reported and shut down, some will certainly be open to the public. The chance your teen runs into one of these is very low, but it is important for them and for you as a parent to know they exist.
Discord also is a messaging app, and so your teen can receive messages from other users. These messages will only be message requests unless sent by a friended profile, but even then your teen will still be able to read those message requests if they open them. As one can assume, this opens the possibility for scam messages, bot spamming, and other less than desirable situations for your teen.
Discord itself does not house parental controls as of yet, but there are parental control apps, which are able to monitor the app for you to make sure your teen is staying out of trouble. One of the most popular is Bark. Bark monitors text chat within Discord’s direct messages on Android and Amazon devices and alerts parents to potential issues, including cyberbullying, depression, suicidal ideation, threats of violence, and more. Overall, Bark is a great comprehensive parental control app that is great beyond just its application to Discord.
Thankfully, Discord does do their best to keep their app a relatively clean and safe service, banning users who violate their code of conduct and monitoring their servers constantly. However, no service is perfect and so you should be aware, as a parent, of the potential problems, few as they may be.