How to Set Up Nintendo 3DS Parental Controls

Personalize the 3DS parental controls for your child

Boys playing with portable game console
Cultura RM/Ian Spanier/Getty Images

The Nintendo 3DS portable gaming system isn't just for playing games. It goes online where it can be used to surf the internet and visits an online digital marketplace where your child can buy downloadable games. Understandably, a parent might want to limit a young child's activity on the Nintendo 3DS, which is why Nintendo included a thorough set of Parental Controls for the system.

How to Set Up the 3DS Parental Controls

Before you hand over the 3DS to your children, take the time to set up age-appropriate parental controls on the device.

  1. Turn on the Nintendo 3DS.
  2. Tap the System Settings icon (it looks like a wrench) on the Home menu. 
  3. Tap Parental Controls in the upper left corner.
  4. When you are asked if you'd like to set up Parental Controls. Tap Yes.
  5. You'll be asked to acknowledge that the Parental Control settings don't apply for Nintendo DS games that are played on the 3DS. If you accept this limitation, tap Next.
  6. Choose a personal identification number, which is required whenever you want unrestricted access to the Nintendo 3DS functions. Select a number that isn't easy to guess, but that you can remember.
  7. Choose a Secret Question in case you forget your PIN. You choose one question from a list of predetermined questions (such as "What did you call your first pet?" or "Where were you born?") and type in the answer. You provide that answer to retrieve the lost PIN if you lose it. The answer must match exactly, and it is case-sensitive.
  1. When the PIN and Secret Question are set up, you are able to access the main menu for Parental Controls. Select Set Restrictions from the available options.
  2. Make your parental control settings from the menu of configurable settings for the Nintendo 3DS. These include the ability to enable or disable: Friend Registration, DS Download Play, Software Ratings, Internet Browser, Nintendo 3DS Shopping Services, the Display of 3D Images, Audio/Image/Video Sharing, Online Interaction, StreetPass, and Distributed Video Viewing.
  1. Tap Done to save your settings.

Your children are unable to access the parental control section of the 3DS to bypass your restrictions without your PIN.

What Each Parental Controls Setting Does

Each of the configurable parental controls covers a different area. Set each one as needed, depending on your child. They include:

  • Friend Registration. This setting prevents your child from registering someone as a friend on the 3DS, which allows them to see the game each other is playing and permits them to exchange messages.
  • DS Download Play. This setting allows or prevents the download of demos and wireless multiplayer titles.
  • Software Ratings. Use this setting to limit downloadable games by content rating.
  • Internet Browser. Enable this setting to prevent your child from accessing the internet from the 3DS.
  • Nintendo 3DS Shopping Services. Enabling this setting prevents your child from buying games and apps from Nintendo online, either with credit cards or prepaid cards.
  • Display of 3D Images. Parents of very young children may enable this setting, which displays all 3DS games in 2D, out of concern for the effects of 3D images on young children.
  • Audio/Image/Video Sharing. This setting prevents your child from transferring or sharing photos, images, audio and video online from the 3DS.
  • Online Interaction. Enable this setting to restrict internet communications by stopping the exchange of information that occurs within games that are played online.  
  • StreetPass. Enable this setting to stop communications with other 3DS users of StreetPass.
  • Distributed Video Viewing. This setting, which is turned on by default, prevents videos that are not family-friendly from being downloaded.

Tips for 3DS Parents

You need to enter your PIN if you want to edit or reset the Nintendo 3DS parental controls. If you forget your PIN and the Secret Question you entered for PIN retrieval, contact Nintendo.

Some of the Secret Questions are a little obvious, so choose one wisely. Your child may know the answer to "What is my favorite sports team?"