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Creating a safer Discord experience for kids (& a happier one for their parents)

The Brief

Adding a parental controls feature to Discord

The Process

Project Background

Discord. Kids love it. Parents...don’t.

Can there be a middle ground?


In this project, I explore potential solutions to the problem of Discord’s lack of safety precautions for its youngest users.

Studies show that internet use is on the rise amongst kids and that more and more, the way they hang out with friends is through online social platforms like Discord.

Two-thirds of parents surveyed won’t let their kids use Discord because they worry about internet safety and their kids mental wellbeing. But Discord has been very hands-off about implementing any way for parents to monitor their kids’ activity on the app.

Parents are finding that it’s harder than ever to let kids be kids in today’s digital age.

I couldn't help but think there could be a solution.

How might we create a Discord experience which feels fun for kids and safe for their parents?

In this case study, I cover some ideas I designed in order to address this problem. I deep-dive into what worked and what turned out not to be so feasible.

Ultimately, through iterating, testing, collaborating, and listening, I come to a solution that feels both simple for parents & fun for kids. Best of all, I explore how it could even turn Discord into a leader in the social platform space when it comes to online safety and promoting positive use amongst teens.

Finding the Solution

Gaining Empathy Through Research

User Surveys & Interviews

I knew that in order to most effectively design a solution, I would need to go straight to the source: the parents whose kids desperately want to use Discord.

  • Parents overwhelmingly feel uncomfortable letting their kids use Discord

  • 67% of parents surveyed attempt to monitor their child’s Discord activity

  • The top two reasons parents don’t let their kids use Discord is a fear of bullying and a worry about internet safety with strangers they meet online

80% of parents want some sort of parental controls before they would even consider Discord use for their teen.

“It seems to me that much of the safety protocols currently in place for Discord are left either up to the child to report bad behavior, or the burden is place on the parent to proactively go into the child’s account. This is a pain!”

Diving Deeper

Competitive Analysis

Turning to similar platforms like Roblox, Facebook Messenger Kids, I was able to identify safety features those apps have that Discord does not.

I also looked at third-party platforms like Bark to see what they were doing for online protection.

Comparison of key parent safety features on similar apps

Gaining Clarity

Explorations

Two Initial Designs


Upon studying the competition, I dove into two ideas that I thought I would use in tandem.



  1. Was a Parent Pin Feature the answer?

    Taking a cue from Roblox, I thought giving parents the ability to lock their child's ability to change settings was the answer.

    I got quite far into the design and prototype stage with this idea before realizing that there were some issues.


Issues discovered after initial testing:

  • Parent has to remember child’s login info each time he/she wants to change settings.

  • What happens when parent inputs his/her email during the validation step?

  • Are these settings really enough?



  1. How about a Parent Mobile App?

    I figured this separate app the parent could download would give the option of more granular control.

    I figured this separate app the parent could download would give the option of more granular control.


Issues discovered after initial testing:

  • This is kind of clunky for the parent user: not only must they download the Parent app, they also need a Discord account as well.

  • The six-digit pin presents some problems with how it would work in actuality.

  • Lots of steps on the settings form.

  • Which account is the account linked to?



It became clear that perhaps I was overcomplicating this process. I examined how I might streamline the process for the user and save myself time as the designer. I decided that the idea of a separate app was cumbersome, and if a parent had to download a separate app in addition to signing up for a Discord account, they might abandon the whole process.





Iterating

How could I streamline the whole process?


In order to streamline the process for my parent users, I decided to think in components, or reusable building blocks as I designed and built in Framer. This made it an easy process to move from design into prototyping and testing my new design.


Simplifying Complicated Flows

Back to the Basics


I revisited my user flows by mapping out a new user journey in Overflow. This really helped me find a much-simplified user flow.




To see my full user journey and user flow, click below.


Visit Overflow Project

Meeting the Clients' Needs

Design

Designing with a Component Mindset

Step 1: Starting in the Parent's Account


  • The parent logs into his or her account and proceeds to the Family Linking section via the left menu.

  • The parent then navigates down the page to the section titled Link New Account where he/she will choose the Parent Account option.

  • Upon clicking Next, the parent will see a modal instructing them on what to do next.

  • The parent will then log into the teen's account on a mobile device.



Step 2: Logging in through the Teen's Account


  • The parent and teen will then log into the teen's account on a mobile device.The parent then navigates down the page to the section titled Link New Account where he/she will choose the Parent Account option.

  • Just like in Step 1, they will head over to the Family Linking section, where they will choose the Teen Account option.

  • Upon granting Discord permission to use the device's camera, it will automatically start trying to scan a QR code. Scan the QR code on the parent's open account.

  • Confirming that it is okay to link the account to the parent's account, the teen will be given a message that linking was a success (upon approval from the parent).



Step 3: Confirming and Heading over to Settings


  • The parent and teen simply confirm the account linking from the parent's account page.

  • They will now see that the teen's account is listed on the parent's Family Linking page.

  • They can click into the linked account and start deciding on the settings they desire.



Step 4: A Granular Level of Control


  • The parent is able to decide how much (or little) control they would like to have over the teen's account.

  • The level of control may be different for each individual, so the parent is encouraged to go back and revisit these settings as needed.


Prototyping

Prototyping

Conclusions

Next Steps


Although this is a hypothetical project, I have gained a huge sense of appreciation for what goes into the thinking behind safety features in apps.


I have thought a great deal about not only the mechanics of how the features should work, but I have also deeply pondered the ethics of limiting control in an app.


While I wouldn't say that there is a perfect solution to protecting kids on the internet, as a parent, I have been encouraged throughout the research I have done to see that many tech companies are paying attention to what parents are saying. The internet — and technology in general — is a wonderful thing and is here to stay. As parents, it is our responsibility to teach young people how to navigate this world.

© 2022 Jenny Walvoord Design

Made in Framer

© 2022 Jenny Walvoord Design

Made in Framer

© 2022 Jenny Walvoord Design

Made in Framer

© 2022 Jenny Walvoord Design

Made in Framer