Discord, the Teen-Favored Chat Service, Is Finally Adding Parental Oversight

Discord, the Teen-Favored Chat Service, Is Finally Adding Parental Oversight

Tech News

Discord is finally bringing some parental supervision to its teen-heavy locker room of a chat service.

The free messaging platform—which has long had a reputation as a Wild West for gamers—has grown to 150 million monthly active users since 2015. Two years ago, the company took steps to better police the site for child predators and block minors from seeing porn. It stopped short of offering the kind of monitoring provided by competitors TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat. But feedback from parents and digital-media experts led Discord to bring some new visibility to parents.

Parents can now see who their teens befriend, when they messaged friends, how many people they have called, the communities they have joined and other details. Discord isn’t meant to be used by kids under 13.

Much like other social-media platforms, the company won’t share kids’ message content with parents.

“We decided not to expose message content because we want to give teens agency over their experience,” said Clint Smith, Discord’s chief legal officer, who oversees its trust and safety team.

The company also won’t offer time limits or other basic parental controls found on other platforms. (Parents can set these using built-in tools for iOS and Android.)

How to access it

Parents who create their own Discord account and connect with their teens can access a family center tool that provides them with information about their kids’ activity. Teens will have to open the Family Center settings and share a QR code with their parents, and then accept their parents’ request for supervision.

Over the years, many parents have complained to Discord that child predators have engaged their children on the platform. Anyone can create a private chat group, aka “server,” to post messages, videos and photos on the platform. Porn has been easily accessible in some servers.

Smith said the company has been conducting focus groups and listening sessions with parents since late 2021 through a partnership with the National Parent Teacher Association. “Their most common question is, ‘What is my teen doing on Discord?’”

He said he hopes the information parents now will have access to will provide a catalyst for conversation about what kids are doing on the platform. Parenting experts often say open dialogue with children is crucial to helping them build responsible online habits.

AI and policy updates

According to Discord’s most recent transparency report, child safety was the second-highest category of non-spam policy violations in the last quarter of 2022, behind regulated or illegal activities. Its next report is due later this month.

Discord is also working on a machine-learning system that can identify predatory behavior in users’ chats. The company is updating its policy to clarify that Discord will take action against adults as well as older teens who are found to engage in predatory behavior by terminating their accounts and reporting them to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Such teens who disagree with Discord’s findings can appeal.

Since AI-generated images have become so realistic, Discord is updating its policy of not allowing any sexualized images of minors to include AI-generated images. The app is also clarifying that teen dating servers aren’t allowed.

—For Family & Tech columns, advice and answers to your most pressing family-related technology questions, sign up for my weekly newsletter.

Write to Julie Jargon at Julie.Jargon@wsj.com

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