There are always two sides to every coin, at least two sides to every story, and at least two sides to chat apps and gaming services. We always seem to be able to take something meant for good, and twist it into something mean or dirty. Just as we can take something intended to harm, and try to find the good in it.
The virtual hangout, Discord, is no different. It offers a place for people who share the same interests to talk in real-time through video chat, text, or voice. And with over 250 million registered users who exchange over 850 million messages per day, I’d say it’s a fairly popular service. So popular, in fact, that one mom claims her kids aren’t “calling or texting….they’re all just Discording.”
The problem, however, is that there are no rules..no guidelines…and very little filtering or supervision. So not only can anything be posted or said, but because users are able to hide behind anonymity, those words and comments are often far worse than what they would’ve been had it been real life, face-to-face interactions. Couple that with the adrenaline rush of gaming and the immaturity and young ages of many of the users, and you have an environment where hateful words and mean remarks are thrown around like dust in the wind.
The old adage, “Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never harm you,” just isn’t true. Words matter. And they hurt. And when someone makes a disparaging comment, the immediate reaction is to respond likewise, thus creating a toxic environment. But the bullying and hatefulness isn’t the only problem with Discord. Another exists that is equally as upsetting and harmful…the ability to go into any server on the platform.
Even though I might allow my 14 year old to use the app for gaming or to create his own private community of friends, there is absolutely no filter to block my child from exploring other servers on the site and viewing porn or other inappropriate content. Although these other servers claim to be “invite-only”, it’s really quite easy to go in uninvited.
I realize that just about any social media platform is going to have unsuitable material somewhere on its server. The issue with Discord is their lack of policing it and the ease of being able to find and view it.
Which leads us back to that two-sided coin. On one hand, this is a popular app where most of the kids are going. And, given the right circumstances, it could prove to be a positive place for a group of friends to hang out virtually and share common interests and ideas. On the other hand, it can be a brutal environment that causes emotional and mental anguish as well as introducing material not suitable for young eyes and ears.
So, which side of the coin do you choose? As a parent, I know my kids don’t want to be left out of something that “everyone else” is doing. At the same time, my kids are my responsibility. It’s up to me, the parent, to decide what I will and will not allow them to do online. As with everything in the online world, if our kids are going to be consumers of it, we need to be sure we are monitoring and guiding them as they navigate through it.
I guess this is just one more opportunity to do just that.