More and more teens are joining Discord, a communications platform, to connect with peers and friends. Discord makes it easy for teens to find connection and belonging – whether it’s in a group for studying or shared interests like a band or sports team.
Discord debuted in 2015 and quickly gained a following among gamers looking to communicate while playing video games. The service has since shed its gamers-only image to become one of a handful of go-to messaging apps.
The service supports voice, video and text chat and now has 150+ million monthly users. It’s still popular with gamers, but you’re also just as likely to find groups (or “servers,” in Discord speak) about sports teams, celebrities or sports or created around a school project.
How it works
Discord is organized into chat groups called servers, which are the spaces on Discord. They are made by specific communities and friend groups. The vast majority of servers are small and invitation-only. Some larger servers are public. Anyone can start a server on any topic, so long as it doesn’t violate Discord’s Terms of Service or Community Guidelines.
All conversations are opt-in, so users have to join a server to access content and interact with other people on the server.
Servers are organized into subtopics called channels. Channels are divided into text and voice channels. In text channels, users post messages, upload files and share images. In voice channels, users communicate through voice or video chat and screen share (called “Go Live” on Discord).
Users can send private messages to other users as a direct message (DM), as well as start a voice or video call. Most DMs are one-on-one conversations, but users have the option to invite up to nine others to the conversation to create a private group DM (GDM), with a maximum size of ten people. Group DMs are not public and require an invite from someone in the group to join.
Discord also features Student Hubs, a space for students to engage with others at their school by verifying their Discord account with their official student email. Within the hub, they can connect with other verified students, discover servers for study groups or classes, and share their own servers for fellow students to join. Hubs are student-created and not affiliated with or managed by a school.
Discord has established Community Guidelines that explain what isn’t allowed on the platform, including hate speech, harassment, incitement to violence, and other harms like bullying and misinformation.
Server owners and volunteer community moderators define and enforce norms of behavior for their communities that can go beyond the Discord Community Guidelines. Volunteer moderators, or “mods,” help to enforce Community Guidelines and individual server rules and delete content or ban users that break the rules.
The minimum age to access the Discord app or website is 13 unless local legislation mandates an older age. Users must confirm their date of birth upon creating an account. If a user is reported as being under 13, Discord will delete their account, and their account will only be restored if they can verify their age using an official ID document.
Discord Family Center
Family Center is an in-platform parent tool found under user settings that provides parents greater visibility into the interactions and activities of their teens on Discord. Up to three parents, guardians, or other trusted adult family members can connect to a teen in their household. Parents need a Discord account to access the Family Center, and once they complete the setup process with their teen, they can view their connected teen’s activity summary at any time.
The activity summary includes the number of users they’ve messaged or called, the number of new friends they’ve added, and how many servers they’re actively participating in. Family Center won’t contain a complete archive of activity and will only highlight activity occurring after your teen has accepted your connection request. Information is presented on a 7-day rolling basis, so it’s timely without being overwhelming.
Additionally, parents are emailed a weekly summary containing high-level information about their teen’s activity on the platform, including the usernames of friends the teen chatted with and the names of servers in which their teen is active.
In general, we recommend the most restrictive settings for users under 18 but acknowledge that every teen is unique. Whatever settings are selected, revisit them at least once a year as your teen grows and matures or if there’s an issue.
Here are some important settings we recommend you take a look at with your teen:
Create a hard-to-guess password, and don’t share it. We also recommend enabling two-factor authentication (2FA) for additional protection. Go to User Settings > My Account > Enable Two Factor Auth. Learn more about enabling 2FA on Discord.
Filtering out explicit images
Go to User Settings > Privacy & Safety > Explicit Image Filter. We recommend the most restrictive setting. “Filter direct messages from non-friends” is the default, which means direct messages from non-friends will be filtered for sexually explicit images, and images that may be sexually explicit will be automatically blocked. While the filter may successfully identify most explicit images, there may be some instances where it fails to do so. In such cases, you can block the user responsible and report the content that violates Discord’s Community Guidelines or Terms of Service.
You can control DM settings in Settings > Privacy & Settings > Direct Message Filters.
Minor accounts also can’t access channels labeled “age-restricted”, which may contain nudity or other adult content.
Go to User Settings > Friend Requests. Options include Everyone, Friends of Friends, and Server Members. We recommend teens only accept friend requests from people they know in real life. Choose the most restrictive option, Friends of Friends. All friend requests must be approved by the user, no matter the friend setting.
Go to User Settings > Privacy & Safety > Server Privacy Defaults. Again, we recommend the most restrictive settings for minors. “Allow Direct Messages from Server Members” is on by default, so toggle it to the off position.
Keep in mind that changes to global settings only affect new servers your teen joins. To make changes to settings in existing servers, go to Server Settings on the server’s dropdown menu, which is next to the server name.
You can adjust settings on a server-by-server basis, so you may want to select the most restrictive settings in the general settings menu and then adjust an individual server’s settings to be less restrictive (e.g., a server set up for a study group at school).
Anywhere you find teens online, you’ll find meme culture, and Discord is no exception. Countless Discord servers are packed with memes (pronounced “meem”), which are videos, images or graphical text that “go viral,” are usually funny, shared as-is or altered in a way that extends or adds to the “conversation.”
Most memes are silly, but some are thought-provoking, offering commentary or satire on various topics and news events. But some memes can be racist, sexist or homophobic, and serve to perpetuate these and other societal harms. (Discord will remove these types of memes when reported.)
Look at your teen’s favorite memes together to jump-start conversation about this important part of youth culture. What’s a meme they like, didn’t like, one they’ve created? Don’t be surprised to see memes that tackle tough subjects with deadpan humor, similar to stand-up comedians joking about war or disease. Take time to listen and understand—without judgment—what they appreciate about a meme and why.
Blocking & reporting
Blocked users can’t send you direct messages, and you won’t see any new content they post.
- Right-click the user’s @Username to bring up a menu.
- Select Block in the menu.
- Tap the user’s @Username to bring up the user’s profile.
- Tap the three dots in the upper right corner to bring up a menu.
- Select Block in the menu.
To report a user who’s posting harmful content, use the reporting feature within the app. For desktop users, hover over any message, click on the three dots that appear, and select the category within the “Report Message” menu. On mobile, press and hold over a message and tap “Report”.
How does Discord make money?
Discord doesn’t sell ads and or user data to third parties. Instead, Discord makes money through an optional premium subscription called Nitro which allows subscribers to stream higher quality video, upload large file sizes (helpful when sharing big images, gifs or short snippets of video), create a custom profile and other special perks.
Users can also purchase server “boosts,” which provide special emotes (characters with movement) and improved video and voice quality within a server.
Closing thoughts for parents
Safety on Discord, like all social platforms, mostly depends on how it’s used.
Smart practices—like treating others how you want to be treated, utilizing privacy settings in an age-appropriate way and maintaining a healthy balance of on- and offline activities—are especially protective and will help ensure a positive experience on Discord or just about any other app. You can learn more about Discord’s safety work at Discord.com/Safety.
Parents are still who most teens look to for advice and a value system that will carry them successfully into adulthood. Open, non-judgmental discussions and genuine interest, not fear, in the apps, games and services they use, are a great way to put into practice your family’s values and help your teen grow into the adult they are meant to be.