The latest video games console to hit the market is the Nintendo Switch – and it’s being advertised as a particularly family-friendly device. It's so popular in fact, that just ten months after it launched, it has outsold its predecessor, the Wii U.
If you’re unfamiliar with gaming, you may be more than a little concerned about the sort of content your kids might encounter. While gaming has quickly evolved from a niche hobby into a mainstream form of family entertainment, there are a great many misconceptions floating about – particularly with regard to violent content.
This article should help reassure you. Firstly, that games are well regulated and rated to help parents ensure that children and young adults don’t become exposed to content intended for older audiences; and secondly, that the Nintendo Switch has excellent built-in controls to help you monitor and restrict your children’s gaming activities – even when you’re not physically in the house.
If you are concerned about e-safety issues facing children today visit Internet Matters, a not-for-profit organization supported by BT dedicated to keeping children safe online. Its website has a wealth of information aimed at parents about issues such as cyberbullying, social media and using technology safely.
In Europe, Nintendo Switch titles (like all games) are subject to the PEGI (Pan European Games Information) age rating system. This system is designed to ensure that kids don't end up playing games that are unsuitable for their age group, and rates each game as one of the following: 3, 7, 12, 16 and 18 (with the number corresponding to the intended minimum age of the player).
The video content in certain games is also subject to BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) ratings: U, PG, 12, 15 and 18.
Both PEGI and BBFC ratings will be clearly displayed on a game’s packaging (or description, for games being purchased online via the Nintendo eShop).
As a parent, it’s ultimately your responsibility to monitor the content your children come into contact with. Fortunately, Nintendo has endowed the Switch with some pretty in-depth parental control options, which we’ll detail in the next section.
Nintendo takes parental controls very seriously, going so far as to create the ‘Nintendo Switch Parental Controls’ app. Available for free on Android and iOS devices, this allows parents to remotely adjust the settings of a linked Switch console in a number of ways:
Time Limits: You can set the Switch to notify your child that their gaming session is over after a certain amount of time – and if you don’t trust them to heed the on-screen warning, you can also set the system to automatically suspend gameplay when that limit is reached.
It’s possible to set a daily allotment of gaming time to your system for each day of the week, and/or to make gameplay impossible after a certain time of day.
Monitoring: You can also use the app to monitor the amount of time your child has spent using the Switch, and how much time they’ve spent playing individual games. This is a good way to keep an eye on the sort of titles your child is playing – and if you think they’re playing games that they shouldn’t be…
Restrictions: If they are, you can restrict their ability to access those games. You can set blanket restrictions based on games’ age ratings, or if you prefer a higher degree of control, you can restrict titles on a game-by-game basis.
Don’t like the idea of your child interacting with other people online? The app also allows you to set up restrictions on social media posting, online play and online communication with other players.
Keep in mind that parental controls apply to your Nintendo Switch system and not individual players’ accounts, so if you have several children it’s not currently possible to set different time limits for each of them – just one overall limit. Should you want to bypass or change the control settings, just key in your four-digit PIN for full access.
Console parental controls: Also note that, even if you don’t use the mobile app, the Switch console itself has some parental controls including: the ability to restrict games, and to block social media posting and online communication. You can also restrict the ability of your child to purchase content from Nintendo’s online eShop using your Nintendo Account profile settings. Find out more about setting up the Nintendo Switch parental controls.
If you are a BT Broadband customer, you can keep your children safe online using BT’s free Parental Controls. Light, Moderate and Custom pre-defined filters block unsuitable content including: drugs, social networking and games. Choose when the filters are active and add homework filters to block your children from playing games and using social networks when they should be working. Find out more about BT Parental Controls.