So as you may or may not know I am a Dad, and I have two young boys. As such I’m often walking that tightrope between trying to introduce them to gaming (one of my major often involves wrestling little ones off ‘screen time’ (any digital device- i.e. phones, iPad’s, handheld gaming devices etc), and then dealing with the inevitable (nuclear) fallout of such parental directives.
I grew up with gaming in the 90’s when it was new. And I mean new. We’re talking pre-(widespread)-internet here and then the heady-days of dial-up. As such my parents had no real reference to compare what I was playing to, and as a result I’d end up with my grubby little hands on titles such as Doom and System Shock…
Now it’s my turn to make those kinds of calls and I’d like to think that there is a lot more information out there and that the ‘they’re just games’ mindset that see’s little Timmy’s beating prostitutes to death in GTA is no longer as prevalent, or indeed an acceptable excuse.
I like to think that I can recognise just how ‘adult’ games can be and how unsuitable they can be for little-ish eyes. The certificates are there for a reason folks. Fortnight for example, is a 12 certificate. Yet it seems like every child in my son’s school plays it. Given my eldest is in primary school, you can perhaps see the issue with that. That said, as far as games go, Fortnight isn’t that bad for kids- you know, competitive violence and one-man-upmanship aside, but it doesn’t change the fact that the certificate is sometimes a good 6 years above the age of a lot of children playing it.
Now I thought I’d have this nailed. You just don’t go into the shop and buy them the 18 certificate game. Easy. Dad-1, World-Nil. Suck it. Unfortunately the internet and more specifically digital downloads makes that harder. Now of course, you can restrict their ability to set up accounts etc, but again, with voucher codes and pre-paid cards, even that isn’t foolproof. Seem’s I’ll actually have to be a ‘parent’ and watch what my kids do. The humanity….
That was until my son got a Nintendo Switch. Nintendo have long been at the forefront of innovation and user-experience, but the parental controls around the Switch have left even a jaded old man like me happy.
The parental controls are accessed through my smartphone. I’ve set up his gaming account through it, and by using my email any communication he gets comes to me also. This nicely side-steps THAT other worry of letting your kids online; unsolicited external contact. But wait, there’s more. I’ve set age-limits into the switch that can only be changed through my phone. No matter how tech-savvy he gets, he’s not worming his way around that one.
I also see what he plays/does and for how long, I can get notifications whenever he picks it up and I can (and have) set hard-wired time limits into the device that i can change on the fly. The parental controls literally switched the game off after the allotted time. No if’s, no ‘5 more minutes dad’, it just stops. It’s glorious, and it makes parenting that much easier.
More importantly it allows me to give my eldest a bit more freedom with his tech. Knowing I can monitor and review anything that happens on it, should I wish, gives me more confidence that he is safe and that he’s not accessing anything he shouldn’t. And what’s more, it’s all highly intuitive, easy to control and (as you’d expect from Nintendo) very well thought out.
I didn’t know about this aspect of the Switch until after i’d bought it, but you know what? I think nintendo are missing a trick here- this is a REAL differentiator and something more parents should know about. If I were undecided over which console to get, this sort of thing would push me nintendo’s way.
It’s clearly something that they thought about from the start of the design process of the Switch (at least for the software), and I think it shows just how important this is to Nintendo.I’ll tell you one thing, it’s certainly made my life easier.
Hats off folks.
EDIT: Since drafting this article my son’s school received a number of warnings about the ‘Momo challenge’ through the parent-email system While I couldn’t do much about the iPad’s, I have been able to disable the browser on the switch to protect from that particular aspect too- at least until it all blows over. Another point for Nintendo.