Digital gamesWhat parents need to know about Discord

Discord is an online service that was originally developed for the needs of the video game community. Through Discord, people can network, chat, and talk while playing video games together online. Discord is still a platform that is especially popular in the video game scene, but is increasingly being used beyond that.

What is Discord?

After registering for free, users have many networking options on Discord. The platform is divided into different "servers". They function like topic-based chat rooms. Discord has official chat rooms for many games that are popular with children and young people. For example, for Fortnite, Minecraft or Roblox. As a rule, between 100,000 and 200,000 users are active there at the same time.

Discord is not limited to gaming, however, but also offers chat rooms on the topics of music, learning, science & technology, and entertainment. In addition, all users can also create their own servers. You can either set these up publicly or only grant access to your friends. If you receive an invitation to a private server from other users, you can accept this invitation and join it. In chat rooms, you can communicate with each other via text, voice or video chat. Pictures and videos can also be posted and the screen shared.

Discord is available for all major operating systems. One can use Discord on mobile devices, on the PC and on some video game consoles. All the major features are available in the free basic version of the app. However, one can buy paid additional features. These are, for example, other emojis or animated profile pictures.

Although it looks colorful and youthful, Discord is not designed for safe use by children and teenagers. Parents who allow their children to use Discord should prepare it well. For example, they should be sure to set the security settings together with their children and discuss clear rules of conduct. Suggestions for this can be found below under "Tips for parents".

Risks of app use at a glance:

  • No effective control of the minimum age
  • Content harmful to minors (e.g. pornography)
  • Cybergrooming (initiation of contact by strangers)
  • Many offers to buy or sell game content
  • Inadequate reporting options in the event of harassment

Tips for parents

If you want to allow your child to use Discord, here's what you should do:

  • Set up the Discord account together with your child. You should pay particular attention to the settings in the "Privacy & Security" section to prevent your child from being contacted by strangers. In addition, the correct date of birth should be entered to prevent servers with pornographic content from being displayed.
  • Set clear rules for use, for example, do not accept invitations or gifts from strangers. Do not arrange to buy or sell game content. Do not disclose private details.
  • Stay in communication withyour child about what he or she is experiencing on the platform and signal that you are approachable if there are problems.
  • Use the family center. Guardians can use it to link their own account and their child's account. The child's activities over the last seven days (for example, messages or server access) can then be viewed by the parent or guardian. Please note: The family center does not allow settings to be made to the child's account. 

There are practical step-by-step instructions for secure settings in Discord at

The risks of Discord in detail

Age restriction

According to the general terms and conditions (GTC), registration on Discord is only permitted for users over the age of 16, but there is no reliable age check. For users between the ages of 16 and 18, the terms and conditions state that the parent or guardian must agree to the terms of use. Here, too, there is no verification.

In-app purchases and trading

Discord offers the option to link a credit card or PayPal to the user profile. This allows you to pay for a subscription to upgrade your user profile with additional features. This membership can also be purchased and then given as a gift. People who are looking for contact with children can use these gifts to ingratiate themselves with their victims and make themselves popular.

Although nothing can be bought on Discord apart from the membership at present, the platform is nevertheless characterized by so-called "trading". Many of the games popular with children, such as Fortnite or Roblox, offer special items or skills in the game world that can be passed on to other players. As a gift, but also as a barter or sale for money. On Discord you can find many of these offers to "trade". Even if the payment or the exchange does not take place on Discord itself, the necessary arrangements are made here. Caution: These offers can be scams that children and young people may not be able to correctly assess.

Contact by strangers

Particularly on platforms that are known to be used by children, it can lead to cybergrooming can occur. Discord allows other users to write private messages. Contacting people you don't know can be prevented by changing the security settings in your profile. Here you can set that you only want to receive messages from people in your own friend list. You can also prevent yourself from being added to other friend lists. These settings must be made manually after logging in. The basic settings are insecure.

Inadequate reporting system

It is possible to contact Discord's Trust & Safety team in case of harassment, bullying or other inappropriate behavior. However, the barriers to making such a report are so high that it is unlikely that children or young people will be able to go through this process easily on their own. Discord provides in the help section a instructions for the cumbersome reporting process in the help section. Once you have gathered all the necessary data, you can submit your complaint via a form.

Difficulties arise in the case of harassment in audio or video chat or harassment in text form, which, however, was subsequently deleted by the perpetrator. In these cases, it is possible to file a complaint, but this may remain inconsequential due to the lack of evidence.

Pornographic content and content harmful to minors

Discord also allows pornographic content on its platform. However, these chat rooms must be marked with the abbreviation "NSFW" (Not Safe For Work). When creating an account, you will be asked to enter your date of birth once. If you are under 18 years of age and enter the correct date of birth, you will not be granted access. However, it is not checked whether the correct or incorrect date of birth is given.

Apart from pornographic content, there are also other images and text messages on Discord that are harmful to minors. Random checks revealed content that glorifies violence, racism and conspiracy ideology.