Getting your child a video game console can be a really confusing purchase for most parents. Unless you’re a gamer, it’s hard to know what the differences are between all the systems. We hear so many negative things about video games in the media–surely it can’t all be bad. Right?
Right. Video games don’t have to be all bad or all scary. What you need to make sure your child’s gaming experience is positive is to do your homework and make sure you purchase the right video game console. Also, set reasonable restrictions on your child’s gameplay.
Honestly? I’m that gamer mom. You know the one. The one who waits until her child goes to bed and fires up her gaming console and plays for hours past her daughter’s bedtime. And probably well past my bedtime, too! I love video games. So I know what you need to consider before getting your kid one of these things. Trust me, there are some great options out there.
As a gamer mom, I’m telling you that a Nintendo console is the way to go. Which one should you get? That depends on the level of gameplay you expect your child to have and the amount of money you’re willing to spend on it. With the proper parental controls, any of these systems would be a great purchase for your 7-year-old.
What features are available?
The features of any console determine the kind of gaming you can do as well as the cost of the device. The more features available, the more expensive the device. But some features are worth paying for. Common gaming features include online access, wireless gaming, a headphone jack, sometimes a camera is included. Take note of what features your child wants (does he/she care about a camera?) and what features might be problematic (online gameplay). Online gameplay allows kids to have access to players outside the home. Sometimes this means friends! Sometimes it means strangers online. It’s totally your call.
When considering buying a gaming system for any kid, parents need to also consider if anyone else will be using the system. Are they sharing it with a sibling? How old is the sibling that will be sharing it? Will it be a family system? Or will the child be the sole owner of the system? These are important things to consider because it dramatically changes what you, the parent, might be looking for in a gaming console features.
What kind of parental controls are available?
Having parental control is key when looking at any gaming system to get your children of any age. Parental controls allow you to set limits on your child’s gaming abilities. Some common controls include turning off online access, having password protected systems, and time monitoring on gameplay. You can also set restrictions to block your child from accessing online store shops, blocking message systems from outside users, and removing the ability to send any content (photos, videos, etc.) By setting limitations based on your child’s age and ability, you can make their gaming experience safer for them.
What is the cost of the console?
The cost of the console is an important factor when considering what system to get. Gaming systems can range anywhere between $80-$300 depending on which system you’re interested in getting. The huge price range says a lot about what different systems have to offer so consider what features you’re looking to get when considering the price of the console. Features like 3D ability, portability, camera access, video, and so forth can tip the scales in one system versus another.
With that said, I have done a lot of research and I have 3-ish great gaming consoles to recommend to parents listed below. Parents, take note–these are all Nintendo consoles. You might be wondering Why are all the recommendations Nintendo? I am not biased. It’s because Nintendo is hands down the most family-friendly gaming system in the business. Competitors like Xbox and PlayStation offer truly great gaming consoles, but not kid friendly ones. I would consider Xbox and Playstation to be gamer systems for older teens and adults. Definitely not for kids–especially for a 7-year-old. Take a look at some of these great options…
|Console||Nintendo 2DS||Nintendo 2DS XL||Nintendo 3DS XL||Nintendo Switch|
|Features||2D gaming abilities, wireless gaming, a headphone jack, internet browsing capability, and an activity log||2D gaming abilities, wireless gaming, a headphone jack, internet browsing capability, an activity log, and the ability to fold||3D gaming abilities, wireless gaming, a headphone jack, internet browsing capability, an activity log, the ability to fold, and camera access for photos and videos||Versatile gaming options, the ability to use joycons for multiplayer gaming, wireless gaming, a headphone jack, and internet browsing.|
|Parental Controls||Online access, wireless gameplay, and access to online shopping.||Online access, wireless gameplay, access to online shopping and block the ability to send/receive videos and pictures||Online access, wireless gameplay, access to online shopping, block the ability to send/receive videos and pictures, and set/track time limits on gameplay|
Nintendo 2DS and 2DS XL
The Nintendo 2DS is the most affordable kid-console on the market. It comes in 2 different forms: the Nintendo 2DS and the Nintendo 2DS XL. The only differences in these two systems are the ability to “fold” the gaming system closed and the size of the screen. The 2DS XL is a little bit more expensive because the screen is larger and the folding feature is something gamers tend to like. Folding the console closed protects the screen, puts the game into sleep mode, and saves battery. The upside to having a non-folding system is that parents can get a glace at what’s on the screen anytime and it’s more affordable. Otherwise, these two systems are identical and considered different models of the same console.
- Features: Both models come with 2D gaming abilities, wireless gaming, a headphone jack, internet browsing capability, and an activity log. The activity log is an interesting feature because it allows users to track physical activity just by keeping it with you all day like a pedometer. It can also track how much time is spent playing games. As users continue to walk they can earn “play coins” that can be used to by special content on the system. The idea is that Nintendo wants to reward kids for physical activity. Cool, right?
- Parental Controls: Since this device comes with the online ability it also comes with the ability to restrict access to online gameplay. It also allows parents to block access to the online store–no “surprise” purchases with this device! Here is a complete list of all the features you can block with the 2DS and 2DS XL consoles
- Cost: This is the most affordable console. Both the 2DS and 2DS XL are reasonably priced.
Nintendo 3DS XL
The 3DS XL is Nintendo’s most popular handheld console. Like the Nintendo 2DS XL, the 3DS XL has the ability to fold. There is no “unfoldable” option for this console. It has all the bells and whistles of the 2DS XL and some! But more features means more cost so if you’re interested in the extra features this system has to offer then you should be willing to pay a bit more for them.
- Features: The 3DS XL has all the same features of the 2DS models. Meaning wireless gaming, a headphone jack, internet browsing capability, and an activity log. The additional features include the ability to take photos and videos as well as the famous 3D ability. Personally, I have some mixed feeling about this 3D ability. While the 3D ability is supposed to enhance gameplay, there are some things to consider. Nintendo openly discloses that the 3D feature can “cause vision damage to players ages 6 and under.” Other sources also have found that the 3D ability can trigger seizures for children who are prone to seizures (think epilepsy). It won’t cause seizures in kids. That said, the 3D feature can be turned off. There is a slider switch on the side of the device that can increase the 3D intensity gradually or turn it off completely.
- Parental Controls: The 3DS XL comes with online accessibility and, therefore, the option for parents to restrict access to online gameplay. Since it can take photos and videos as well, parents can restrict the ability to send/receive photos and videos. However, you cannot turn off camera access. Kids can still take pictures or videos of what they want and save them to the device–they just can share what they take pictures of wirelessly. Here is a complete list of all the features you can block with the 3DS XL
- Cost: Since this is the most popular handheld system Nintendo makes, it is also the most expensive of the handheld options.
The latest Nintendo console is the Nintendo Switch. Unlike the 2DS, 2DS XL, and 3DS XL, is not limited to handheld gameplay. The Switch can be played as a handheld console and as a traditional home console. This console comes with a tray that connects to a T.V. and when the console is set in the tray, the game displays on the T.V. allowing for home gameplay. The controller system is unique as well, there are red and blue devices (as seen in the picture) called joycons that can be removed and snapped into different configurations so that you can play with a friend.
- Features: This is the newest console released by Nintendo and they really tried to create some new features. The most notable feature is the use of joycons that allows users to switch between handheld gaming and traditional home gaming. Check out this video from Nintendo that captures the versatility of gameplay with the Switch. It can be played in so many different configurations. This console is tremendously versatile. This is absolutely the system to get if you plan to play video games as a family or plan to have your child share a console with a sibling.
- Parental Controls: Nintendo really outclassed all other consoles when it comes to parental controls on the Switch. Parents can download an app through Nintendo and set appropriate gaming restrictions for their kids. What’s new about how restrictions are set is that parents can create time restrictions so that kids can only play for set number of minutes/hours a day–you have complete control. If you set a 30 minute daily screen time limit on this device, it will track precisely 30 minutes of gameplay and halt any further play without parental permission. That’s amazing. And these restrictions can be monitored from your mobile device. Kid misbehaving? In their room sulking and possibly playing their Switch? Restrict access from your phone. You don’t need to wrestle the device from them. How cool is that?
- Cost: Compared to the other handheld systems Nintendo has to offer, this is a huge price point jump. Why so expensive? Because there is a lot more hardware to this system. The device, tray, and controller with joycons make this a really expensive console by comparison. That said, it comes with amazing gameplay options and you get what you pay for.