How to Set up Parental Controls on the Nintendo Switch

Keep your kids safe and reduce screen time

A child playing FIFA 19 on a Nintendo Switch

Chesnot, Getty Images

The Nintendo Switch is a great console for using in front of the TV as well as taking out and about with you. Such flexibility is also why a parent might want to limit their child's time on it. Like the Nintendo 3DS' parental controls before it, the Nintendo Switch's parental controls enable a parent to limit their child's time or simply monitor what they've been using it for. Here's how to get it set up.

How to Set up Nintendo Switch Parental Controls

To set up parental controls, you need to get to a certain menu within the system settings. However, once you reach that part, things change depending on whether you're using your smartphone and the accompanying Nintendo app, or you want to set up parental controls solely via the games console. Here's how to get that far.

The smartphone app offers a lot more functionality than the console alone, so this is the recommended method.

  1. From the Nintendo Switch main menu, select System Settings.

    The Nintendo Switch Home Screen
  2. Scroll down to Parental Controls.

    The Nintendo Switch System Settings Screen
  3. Select Parental Control Settings.

    The Nintendo Switch Parental Controls Setting Option
  4. Choose to download the Nintendo Switch Parental Controls App or press X to use the non-smartphone method.

How to Set up the Nintendo Switch Parental Controls Using the App

Downloading the Nintendo Switch Parental Controls app takes a few moments, but it's worth doing as you benefit from more features.

  1. Go to your smartphone's App Store and search for and download Nintendo Switch Parental Controls.

    The Nintendo Switch Parental Controls app is available for both iOS and Android based smartphones.

  2. Launch the app.

  3. Tap Next.

  4. Sign into your Nintendo Account by entering your account details.

    Nintendo Switch Parental Controls iOS app

    Your smartphone may ask for your permission to allow the app to sign in via a website. Tap Continue if it does.

  5. Tap Next.

  6. Tap Select This Person under the profile of the account you want to use. 

    Make sure your Nintendo Switch is nearby. You'll need it for future steps.

  7. On your Nintendo Switch, go back to the Parental Controls screen and select If You've Already Downloaded the App.

    The Nintendo Switch Parental Controls Setup Screen
  8. On the Switch, enter the six digit registration code shown on the Parental Controls app on your smartphone.

    The Nintendo Switch Parental Controls Smartphone App Setup
  9. Select Link.

    Nintendo Switch Parental Controls App Link Screen
  10. Congrats! You've successfully linked your Switch to the Nintendo Switch Parental Controls app. 

How to Set up the Nintendo Switch Parental Controls Without the App

Don't have a smartphone or don't want to link it to your Nintendo Switch? You can still use a limited form of parental controls.

  1. On the Parental Controls set up screen, press X.

    The Nintendo Switch Parental Controls Setup Screen
  2. Select Next

    The Nintendo Switch Parental Controls Setup Screen if you don't use the app
  3. You can now set various restrictions from this screen. Select Next when you're finished.

    The Nintendo Switch Parental Controls Setup Process

    If you're in a rush, you can choose a general setting like Child or Teen, but it's worthwhile tweaking things individually.

  4. Enter a PIN code twice to confirm the restrictions. 

    You can enter the passcode via button taps or the joystick, but it's easier to bring up a virtual keyboard instead. Hold down + till the keyboard appears and enter the code that way.

  5. Press B to back out of the menus.

  6. Congrats. You've successfully set up Nintendo Switch parental controls without the smartphone app!

Make sure you don't tell your child the PIN. Otherwise, they can switch off the parental controls. Also, don't use an easy to guess code. 

What Each Parental Controls Setting Does

There are multiple things you can limit on the Nintendo Switch, regardless of whether you have it linked to the smartphone app or not. 

In each case, you can limit these options individually depending on what you need to restrict. 

It's also possible to set the Restriction Level according to predefined ideas set by Nintendo. These include Teen, Child, and Young Child.

You can limit:

  • What games can be used depending on their age certification.
  • What games are used depending on the content rating system they use, such as PEGI or ESRB.
  • Whether screenshots or videos can be posted to social networks like Twitter or Facebook.
  • Whether your child can freely communicate via messages or profile information with other Switch users.

If you use the smartphone app, you can limit this according to individual apps or games. 

  • Whether VR mode works with applicable software like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild or Super Mario Odyssey.

The Benefits of Using the Nintendo Switch Parental Controls Smartphone App

If you have the Nintendo Switch Parental Controls smartphone app linked to your Switch, you have extra options:

  • Daily limit: You're able to set a daily play time limit in 15-minute increments. This is ideal if you want your child to only play for a set length of time each day.

Set limits with your child verbally as well as through the Nintendo Switch. It's always a good idea to talk to your child about why you're limiting their access rather than simply doing it. 

  • Activity: You can view your child's Nintendo Switch play activity. You can see how long they've spent playing each game, as well as view a monthly summary so you can see what patterns are emerging.

Check the Monthly Summary part of the app each month to ensure your settings are working well for you and your family. Don't be afraid to change things around when it feels time to adapt.

  • Notifications: You can set up notifications on your smartphone so you receive messages whenever your child is using their Switch or doing anything they shouldn't be doing.

Play activity takes a little while to update so don't expect instant results any time your child is playing a game. 

How to Switch off Nintendo Switch Parental Controls Temporarily

  1. Tap the Orange Parental Controls box at the top of the screen.

    The Nintendo Switch Home Screen with Parental Controls enabled

    Alternatively, move the cursor up to it and press A.

  2. Enter your PIN.

    Entering a PIN on the Nintendo Switch Parental Controls screen

    If you're using the smartphone app and you've forgotten the PIN, go to Settings > PIN to find it.

  3. The Parental Controls are now disabled until you select them again to re-instate them.

How to Turn off Parental Controls Permanently

Want to turn off Parental Controls permanently? Here's how when you're using the smartphone app. 

  1. From the Nintendo Switch main menu, select System Settings.

  2. Scroll down to Parental Controls.

    If you're not using the smartphone app, tap Change Settings.

  3. Select Unlink App.

    Unlinking parental controls from the Nintendo Switch

    This step isn't required if you don't use the smartphone app.

  4. Enter your PIN.

  5. Select Unlink.

    The Nintendo Switch Parental Controls App Screen

For non-smartphone app users, press X to delete settings.