June 3, 2022

Fundamentals of Family-Friendly Servers

Discord is home to a variety of communities serving a wide array of interests. It’s important to make sure the subject and content of your community serves your target demographic. For some, these communities may focus on maintaining a family-friendly atmosphere, which can be defined as a space that is suitable for all members of a family. In line with Discord’s Terms of Service these communities are meant to be safe for its youngest users at the age of 13. This article will look at server setup and structure considerations when creating family-friendly environments.

How Family-Friendly Servers Differ From Other Servers

Because you are dealing with young people, family-friendly servers may become what many refer to as Home Servers. These are online communities that are perceived to be safe spaces that people come back to time and again, like a home. Thus, such servers may attract users for different purposes than a community meant for college students might, for example. The moderators of family-friendly servers can be viewed as both authoritative figures but also older siblings or friends that may be looked up to by their community in unique parasocial relationships. They will also have the unique experience of seeing many of their young users mature and grow along with the server.

When forming this kind of environment, it’s important to make sure your moderators are naturally empathetic to the unique situations that will arise within member reports as a result of interpersonal relationships amongst younger users.

During the foundational stages of server building make sure to keep ideas such as privacy concerns, text filters, appropriate topics of discussions, and rule continuity at the forefront of your mind. Consider how you will handle users who are above the traditional age range of family-friendly servers who may not wish to abide by these rules.

Privacy Concerns

While privacy concerns exist on any platform, they are something to be especially aware of when moderating family-friendly spaces. Rules that cover privacy and internet safety may be more strictly enforced to protect younger server members from any harmful actors looking to take advantage of less experienced internet users. Oftentimes, these concerns can culminate in a blanket rule stating that sharing any personally identifying information in the server is not allowed. This goes beyond exact locations and can include full names, ages, and even face reveals.

Revealing exact locations and full names are generally frowned upon in most online communities because they can be used to find more information about a potential doxxing target. Forbidding users to share their age is an added level of privacy to protect younger members seeking community on the Internet from being taken advantage of by those with malicious intentions. Younger users may not understand how risky age differences can be to navigate. Face reveals can be reverse-image searched to further learn information about users who aren’t protecting their online privacy, or even be stolen and used in various forms of bullying. As a result, many family-friendly servers find it best to limit all personally identifying information outside of first name and country if users aren’t choosing to utilize an online persona to protect themselves.

As moderators it’s important to help educate young users about how to maintain confidentiality and use discretion when revealing personal information. This starts with recognizing and not clicking malicious links and steers into conversations about reporting things that make them uncomfortable in any way and protecting their private information. Keep an eye out on how others interact with younger users and act accordingly, as a victim may not realize they are a victim in some situations.

Text Filters and Topics of Discussion

Text filter implementation and determining which topics of discussion are appropriate for the server may be more strict than the average community as a result of building a safe space for younger users. There is generally no room for crudeness in any form.  This goes beyond using text filters to monitor hate speech, which is against Discord’s Community Guidelines, and going further to include curse words, innuendo, illegal substances and activities, gore, dark humor making light of serious situations, any negative and harmful rhetoric from within the fandom your community supports, and more.

Be sure to adapt your text filters as new situations and filter evasions arise within your community. It is often recommended to keep your blacklist private to avoid exposing harmful terminology to users. Additionally, make sure your text filters mirror the topics of discussion you aren’t allowing in your server and clearly outline those preferences in your server rules by noting that your environment is strictly SFW and any NSFW content is not allowed.

Automoderation can be utilized to mute or ban users who are engaging in problematic discussion around hate speech, and moderators can use their judgment on other blacklisted words as long as your moderation bot is set to log filtered words in moderation channels.

Rule Continuity

As mentioned in the previous section, rule continuity is a big deal in spaces meant for young people to ensure equal enforcement across everything. If you’re looking to filter certain content, it should also not be allowed to discuss that topic in your server. This goes for both general chatting and for various other forms of server usage, any place where there can be user generated content. One such example is meme or art channels. While it’s a great idea to foster and encourage a healthy and positive artistic environment, content that is NSFW, hate speech or politically motivated, and creations that may lean into age-restricted content like alcohol consumption or gore should be monitored and discouraged. If you have an active music channel setup, it might be worth keeping an eye on playlists to make sure the content being monitored elsewhere doesn’t slip by here.

With the release of server avatars, it is less likely that rule-breaking content can find its way into your server via this route, but consider moderating statuses of active users, user profiles, and profile pictures if it does. It also helps to have your moderators lead by example and follow the same rules in their profiles that you are looking to enforce elsewhere. Continuity is key for equal and unbiased rule enforcement.

Considerations for Users Above Your Target Age Range

While family-friendly environments exist to be safe spaces for young people you may find yourself also having users who are above your target age range. Their presence should not be discouraged, but it’s important to ensure that your rules and welcome messaging clearly defines your space as family-friendly so that they are aware of the expectations for ANY user who joins the server. Most will likely be accepting of the rules you’ve put in place and the space you are trying to cultivate. However, others may naturally challenge certain restrictions that they find childish or assume don’t apply to them. Establishing language around why your community is meant to be family-friendly and the importance of keeping it safe for everyone as a result, will be helpful if these conversations arise. Users who may rebel against rules that they do not agree with should be actioned accordingly.

If you notice a large portion of your userbase seeking out your community but growing frustrated with its family-friendly restrictions, you can consider opening locked channels for mature users that can either opt-in to their existence or show proof of their age. If you decide to do this, make sure you have a separate set of rules in place for these channels, as well as an identification vetting process to make sure that younger users do not get exposed to content you don’t want them to be exposed to. This would require moderation that is different from the rest of your server, so it’s important to consider whether or not your moderation team can handle this locked channel and if you feel it aligns with your servers’ purpose.

To Recap

Family-friendly communities exist to welcome Discord’s youngest users into safe spaces with the protection of moderation teams. Home Servers are SFW communities that limit topics of discussion more than a generalized server would in order to cultivate that safe environment. As a result, there’s special consideration to be taken around user privacy and educating users about their privacy, expanded text filters, appropriate topics of discussion, and rule continuity when building out the rules and structure of such an environment. Make sure your team is prepared to handle older users who may find these rules constricting by explaining their importance to your community’s purpose.

Server Safety
Parents and Teens

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