Out of the “big three” in today’s console gaming world, Nintendo makes the video games most often associated with children. Most of the game maker’s tentpole franchises — Mario, Legend of Zelda, Splatoon — are kid-friendly.
It’s no surprise, then, that Nintendo’s Switch console has some of the most intuitive parental controls around. While the console has relatively few Teen or Mature-rated games — that’s a larger concern for other systems — Nintendo has created a variety of options to help you limit screen time or to regiment periods of play.
Nintendo actually has an app you can download on your Apple or Android phone that helps you remotely access and alter parental settings on the console. They’re clear about one thing, though: the parental settings are not for individual accounts, but for the entire console itself. The restrictions can be completely disabled, say for when you might be using it to find your own shrines in Zelda. When the settings are disabled, all timers for games and other restrictions are paused.
Perhaps unfortunately, the app is necessary to set up most of the parental controls for the system. Most people who own a Switch would also own a smartphone, but it does complicate things a bit for those that do not have an Android or Apple phone.
The parental controls can be temporarily disabled directly on the Switch by using the PIN you set up using the App itself.
Installing The App
Once you download the app from your respective app store, you log in using your Nintendo account and then sync your Switch console to the app. Having access to Wi-Fi helps this process, but you can manually connect as well. The instructions are easy to follow and soon you’ll be taken through a setup process to enable parental controls. The app itself is pretty powerful: it can limit game options by rating, set certain limits on playing time on the device itself, or even remotely enable sleep mode if certain rules aren’t being followed.
The app allows control of multiple Switch devices, along with a bevy of restrictions for the devices. It also tells you what games your child has been playing and how long they’ve played them, both on a daily and monthly basis. This lets you monitor overall play trends and can help you alter play time restrictions moving forward.
Here’s what you can control using the Nintendo Switch Parental Controls app:
Daily Limit On Play Time
Nintendo allows you to limit time in 15 minute increments up to six hours a day. That’s a pretty wide spectrum of limitations, and they can be adjusted on the fly or changed for certain days, so more time can be allowed on weekends, for example. When the time limit has been reached, an alarm clock icon with the message “Time is up” will appear in the top left side of the screen. It does not, however, turn off the game automatically.
It’s up to your child to reach a save point and turn the system off themselves. You can actually track the time logs remotely from your smartphone and can see just how much longer your child plays after that limit is reached. So if they’re not saving and hopping off the device, you can take further action.
Bedtime Alarm And Suspend Software
The app allows you to set daily restrictions on what time and for how long the Switch console itself can be used. A daily schedule can limit playing hours and the length of time the console can be used each day. A “bedtime alarm” can also be set in 15 minute increments, in case your child has a habit of sneaking the Switch into bed for some late-night Splatoon action when the lights go out.
If the alarm limits are not adhered to, there’s a nuclear option: suspending the software altogether. This will immediately put the console into sleep mode for the rest of the day, potentially stopping a game before a save point can be reached.
Your Switch can be prevented from playing certain games based on their ESRB rating as well. Nintendo has a “restriction level” option that lets you choose between teen, pre-teen and child, with the option to also create custom settings based on specific age or other ratings systems. (NOTE: This is the only parental control setting that can be changed on the Switch system itself without a smartphone.)
These controls also allow parents to restrict access to social media, including posting screenshots and videos of game play. You can also limit communication with others using the system’s online capabilities as well, which is useful for preventing strangers from sending images or text to your child in games.
Making Changes From Your Phone
The app can be set up to push notifications to your smartphone for alarms, or when time limits are reached. Once your parental controls are set, an icon on the home screen of the Switch will indicate that the settings are turned on. A PIN can be set up to turn your settings on and off, though the console must be connected to the Internet to make these changes remotely.
The app does not limit purchases in Nintendo’s eShop or other parental control settings needed for other devices, though that can be managed directly through your Nintendo account online or on your console.