How to set up Parental Controls on the Wii U

Keeping kids safe on Nintendo's latest console

How to set up Parental Controls on the Wii U  Everybody Plays
21st July, 2016

As a rule, Nintendo have always taken the online safety of it's customers very seriously. As a result of their family friendly leanings, they've always tended to err on the side of caution - from the infamously long-winded exchanging of 'Friend Codes' to play together online on the Wii and DS, to even turning off the 3DS' Nintendo Letterbox application amid concerns of grooming. As you'd likely expect, then, the parental controls on its latest console, the Wii U, amongst the most in depth of any of the "big three". And while it's a little bit on the long-winded side, it's also pretty straightforward to set up:

First things first

How to set a password for users on the Wii U

Parental Controls

How to access the Wii U's Parental Controls
How to set different parental controls for different Wii U accounts
How to restrict access to Wii U games by age rating
How to block online play on the Wii U
How to block access to in-game voice chat on Wii U
How to block access to the Wii U internet browser
How to prevent users spending money on the Wii U eShop
How to block access to Miiverse
How to block an account from adding friends on Wii U - block-adding-friends
How to block access to YouTube, Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and other media applications on Wii U
How to prevent accounts deleting saves and games on Wii U
How to prevent accounts changing internet settings on Wii U

Wii Mode

Staying Safe In Wii Mode
How to restrict access to Wii games by age rating on Wii U
How to restrict access to the Wii eShop on Wii U
How to prevent online play on Wii games on Wii U
How to prevent access to inappropriate videos in Wii mode

How to set a password for users on the Wii U

First things first! There's no use setting up some elaborate parental controls if your child can simply log into your account at the touch of a button, and get access to all the games you'd tried so hard to restrict. With that in mind, the first thing you really need to do is to set a password for each user account, which will have to be input when logging into the console, to add that extra layer of protection. To do this, you'll need to log into your account, click on your profile picture in the top left, and then scroll down to "Save password?", which you'll want to change to "no". Repeat this process for every user, and you can be sure that your child will only have access to the games and features you say.

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How to access the Wii U's Parental Controls

Nintendo Wii U Screenshot

There it is

Keeping things front and centre on the new console, the Parental Controls can be found directly on the Wii U Home Menu. To kick off, click on the 'Parental Controls' icon (a picture of two pink stick people), where a warning will pop up to say under 18s should have an adult configure the settings for them (which, incidentally, is one of the reasons it's often important to set consoles up before you let your kids have them).

Click next, and it'll explain you need to create a 4 digit PIN to prevent anyone unauthorised from getting access to the Parental Controls, and changing them back. Once you've clicked next, you'll need to type your chosen 4 numbers on the GamePad twice to confirm, choosing "OK" after each one. Although it likely goes without saying, we should probably note here that you should use something your child won't be able to guess - not 1234, 9999, or any birthdays that they might know.

With your PIN now securely saved, you'll need to choose a secret question to help you gain access to the Parental Controls, should you ever forget your PIN. With the usual selection of options on offer - first pet names, where you were born and such like - all you need to do is choose one and type in your answer, and you're pretty much done.

The next step is entirely optional, and can be skipped with the X button if you'd like, but for those of you who'd like to add an extra layer of security, you can register an email address too, where Nintendo can send you reminders of your PIN and answer for the secret question - just make sure it's one the kids can't access too.

Now that you've set up your security, you'll be presented with a short list of options - you'll want to click the big 'Parental Controls Settings' button at the top, so you can get started on setting various restrictions for your childs' use of the console.

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How to set different parental controls for different Wii U accounts

Each individual user account on the Wii U can have its own set of parental controls - so if you have a teenager and a five year old, you don't have to limit them both to the most family friendly of games. You can choose which account you want to set the parental controls for by scrolling left and right with the on-screen arrows, with a choice of restricting the following options:

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How to restrict access to Wii U games by age rating

Found under: Parental Controls -> Parental Control Settings -> Game Rating

Nintendo Wii U Screenshot

Unlike more recent consoles like the Playstation 4, and its crazy level system, the Wii U makes restricting access to inappropriate games easy. All games are given a PEGI rating, while some older games either also or exclusively have a BBFC rating. These ratings apply only to a game's content, and give you an approximation of what's considered appropriate for each of the age groups in terms of violence, sex, bad language and the like. And while it's worth bearing in mind that PEGI can be a bit weird sometimes, often being overly harsh, whilst at other times being weirdly lax, it's at least easy to set an absolute maximum game age rating you'd be happy with your child playing (for more, check out our guide to PEGI and video game age ratings)

By simply dragging the slider from right to left, the panels on the right will turn dark grey. It's as straightforward as a simple left-right rule - your child will be able to play games that have the age ratings shown on the left in light grey, but won't be able to play games with age ratings on the right in dark grey. Once you've chosen a suitable level, all that's left to do is press A to save your settings. A convenient way to assure your five year old doesn't end up having nightmares after a stint on their older brother's ZombiU game, at least.

In a really nice touch, this isn't actually a completely absolute setting. If your child goes to play a game that has a higher age rating than they're allowed, you'll have the option of entering your PIN to let them play it just that once - although, sadly, there's no option to add a permanent exception. It's also pretty cool that blocking access to games over a certain age rating will also prevent you from viewing the game pages for those games on the Wii U eShop - a pretty useful tool, as these pages otherwise contain screenshots, and sometimes even trailers that may be inappropriate. If you want to let your child view a game with an age rating higher than they're allowed on the eShop, you can always put your parental controls PIN in to allow access just that once.

It's worth noting, however, that these settings only apply to Wii U games. As the console is fully backwards compatible with Wii games, and can run any Wii game you put in it, you'll want to set up controls for Wii games too, which we'll come to later.

Parents should also keep in mind that the PEGI/ESRB/BBFC ratings don't take into account a game's complexity, and as such, they can't be used as a guide to which games your children will be able to do. For that, you'll need our Game Finder.

Super Mario 3D World Screenshot

Super Mario 3D World is one game that's suitable for pretty much everyone.

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How to block online multiplayer on the Wii U and How to block access to in-game voice chat on Wii U

Found Under: Parental Controls -> Parental Control Settings -> Online Interaction In Games

As a console with a slightly higher emphasis on online play, the Wii U offers more potential for interaction with strangers than the Wii or 3DS do, but markedly less than more recent consoles like the PS4 and Xbox One. Activating this setting is a rather blunt tool, as it will prevent the use of any online features in games - think racing against other players in Mario Kart, or playing a deathmatch online in Call of Duty - whether your children would be playing against people they know in a private game, or against strangers all over the world in open matchmaking. As an aside, activating this setting will also prevent the exchange of any other content between players, whether that's homemade levels, homemade items, like a dog with wheels for Scribblenauts, or any other user created content.

It's also important to bear in mind that this setting does only affects the online features of the games themselves, as Miiverse, the internet browser and the Nintendo eShop must all be set separately. This setting also only blocks online play - you Wii U will still be able to connect to the internet to receive system updates, game patches or official notifications from Nintendo - but if you want to prevent your children from playing online, this is the option for you.

This setting simply toggles on and off, shown by a padlock, when you touch it in the list on the GamePad.

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How to block access to the Wii U internet browser

Found Under: Parental Controls -> Parental Control Settings -> Online Interaction In Games

Like many consoles, the Wii U comes with a fully functioning web browser, perfect for checking up on hints and tips when you get stuck in a game, browsing the latest gaming news on a top site (like Everybody Plays!), or simply watching a YouTube video in full screen.

Of course, with access to the internet comes access to a whole range of things on the web's seedy underbelly, and there's all sorts of questionable things the kids may stumble upon when given free range of the web. With that in mind, it's understandable you may want to turn off access to the web through the Wii U altogether.

However, Nintendo have taken a few steps to make things a little bit safer. First off, if you go to search using the console, you'll be automatically redirected to a custom Google search, where your results will be automatically filtered to remove any adult content - searching for "porn", for example, returns no results. However, as you can still enter the address of any site you want directly, and can always go to Google manually if you want to search the full web, it doesn't take too much to bypass it.

While a stronger, family friendly filter would have been appreciated, instead, Nintendo at least offer the fairly blunt ability to turn it either on or off, by tapping the 'Internet Browser' setting so a padlock icon appears.

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How to prevent users spending money on the Wii U eShop

Found Under: Parental Controls -> Parental Control Settings -> Wii U Shopping Services

We've all seen the horror stories about kids amassing a huge credit card bill for their unsuspecting parents through game-related purchases - but nearly all of these incidents could have been prevented if parents had been more aware of the protections they can put in place through each consoles' parental controls.

The Wii U eShop is where players can go to spend money, with an array of digital games, add-ons, and accessories for sale. While the Wii U already has stringent security in place (it doesn't remember your credit card by default, for example), with this option, you can toggle whether the selected account can make purchases from the Nintendo eShop, adding that extra peace of mind.

The best bit about this is that it doesn't actually stop users from accessing the eShop - only from spending money. This means your little ones can browse to their heart's content, and figure out what they want to buy, before having you log into your account to make the purchase, as every account on the machine has access to the games other accounts have downloaded.

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How to block access to Miiverse

Found Under: Parental Controls -> Parental Control Settings -> Miiverse

Miiverse is Nintendo's take on social media, and is effectively a big forum for people to post about, draw pictures of and generally chat about games, accessed through the Wii U. But unlike Twitter and such, it's fairly heavily moderated, so anything even remotely dodgy is edited out long before you get to see it. That being said, concerned parents may well want to at least keep an eye on what their children are doing on there, and thanks to the Parental Controls, you can limit the level of interaction they can have with other Wii U users. By clicking on the Miiverse tab, you can then set the degree of access you want to allow them on Miiverse, from a choice of: Do Not Restrict, so the account is free to make and view posts; Restrict Posting Only, so they can read other people's posts, but not make their own; and Restrict Viewing and Posting, effectively turning Miiverse off.

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How to block an account from adding friends on Wii U

Found Under: Parental Controls -> Parental Control Settings -> Friend Registration

Along the same vein as Miiverse, you can also restrict your childrens' ability to register other users as friends online. By registering another player as a friend, your child will be able to see when their friend's online, what games they're playing, and exchange messages with each other, in much the same way as Miiverse lets you chat to the wider Wii U world.

In reality, this is less a blanket ban than the ability to let you vet the friends your child adds - with this setting enabled, should your child go to add a friend, they'll have to ask you to enter the Parental Controls pin to allow it - giving you that much needed peace of mind over who they're adding.

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How to block access to YouTube, Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and other media applications on Wii U

Found Under: Parental Controls -> Parental Control Settings -> Entertainment Excluding Games

Nowadays, it's not enough for a console to just play games - often, it needs to be a multimedia hub on top, with options to stream films, TV shows and much more. Slightly behind its Sony and Microsoft counterparts, the Wii U only has a few entertainment apps to choose from, such as Netflix or Lovefilm.

When it comes to restricting access to apps like these, the Wii U gives you the option to set limitations on an application by application basis. Turn the 'Entertainment Excluding Games' option on, and you'll instantly put a temporary blanket ban in place on every video or audio streaming app on the console, including YouTube, the iPlayer, and Netflix. Upon starting said app with the parental restriction in place, it'll give you a brief description of what the app does, and ask you to put in your pin. Stick your Parental Controls pin in from earlier, and another menu will pop up, asking you if you want to "remove the parental controls restriction for this software", with options to allow access just this once, or from now on. Choosing the latter will mean that account will be able to use the app whenever they want, without having to enter a PIN. Any parental controls for Netflix or the like will have to be configured from within the apps themselves.

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How to prevent accounts deleting saves and games on Wii U

Found Under: Parental Controls -> Parental Control Settings -> Data Management

A God-send for those of you that have nippers that are chronic accidental save game deleters, turning 'Data Management' restrictions on will block your selected user from being able to access the Wii U's Data Management menu, from which they could choose to delete things willy-nilly. That's all there is to this one really - it just means they can't go wild and delete save data, applications and add-on content.

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How to prevent accounts changing internet settings on Wii U

Found Under: Parental Controls -> Parental Control Settings -> Internet Settings

Another quick setting, but a really thoughtful one, this option simply lets you toggle whether the chosen user can mess with various internet settings (passwords, IP addresses and the like) - a good precaution for parents whose kids tend to mess with anything and everything on electronic devices. After all, who wants to have to go through the faff of getting the Wii U to connect to your router again and again?

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Staying Safe In Wii Mode

One good thing about the Wii U when compared to it's competitors is its backwards compatibility. Not only does the console play Wii U games, but it'll also play pretty much every single (old) Wii game going, meaning you don't have to leave behind your back catalogue when you move over. Somewhat awkwardly, the parental control settings that govern what you can and can't do while in Wii Mode are contained in separate menu - so if you want to be doubly sure your children can't play any PEGI 18s, you'll have to set both. Cunningly hidden in the top right hand corner under 'Wii Menu Settings', pressing the X button (or tapping the icon on the GamePad) will bring up a separate list of setting you can use to restrict access to games and features - although you should keep in mind that, due to how the Wii U runs Wii games, these settings will apply to all users of the console, not just a single child.

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How to restrict access to Wii games by age rating on Wii U

Found Under: Parental Controls -> Parental Control Settings -> Wii Menu Settings -> Game Rating

As with the Wii U setting of the same name, this one lets you choose the maximum age rating you're happy with, based on the mature content it contains - such as sex, violence, bad language or gore - as judged by PEGI, BBFC, or the age rating board in your country. As before, it's controlled by moving a slider left and right to split the list of age ratings into 'allowed' and 'not allowed' sides.

Kirbys Epic Yarn Screenshot

Kirby's Epic Yarn is simple, family-friendly fun - and one of the very best Wii games.

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How to restrict access to the Wii eShop on Wii U

Found Under: Parental Controls -> Parental Control Settings -> Wii Menu Settings -> Wii Shopping Services

Much like the Wii U, the humble Wii had it's own online store that let you download new games and add-ons for your favourite titles. And much like with the Wii U eShop, you can choose to restrict the access your kiddies' have to the online store. By switching on the Wii Shopping Services controls, you can prevent your kids using any of the Wii Points (the currency used to buy stuff) you have stored on your account to buy things - although, happily, they will still be able to download freebies like demos. What it doesn't do however, is prevent them from adding any more Wii points to your account - which may sound like a massive misstep on Nintendo's part, but actually isn't an issue, as the console doesn't store your credit card details at all. While it means you have to enter your digits afresh every time you went to add more points to your account, it also makes the console's billing child proof - so long as they don't rummaging through your handbag/wallet for a card.

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How to prevent online play on Wii games on Wii U

Found Under: Parental Controls -> Parental Control Settings -> Wii Menu Settings -> Certain Online Features

Enabling this option will effectively turn off all the online features of the Wii console, preventing players from racing online against other players in Mario Kart Wii, visiting friends' towns in Animal Crossing: Lets Go To The City or being repeatedly whooped by old Japanese ladies in Dr. Mario. There's no in-betweens here - everything that could come under the banner of "online play", from exchanging content, to communicating with other players and playing online is either on or off.

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How to prevent access to inappropriate videos in Wii mode

Found Under: Parental Controls -> Parental Control Settings -> Wii Menu Settings -> Viewing Distributed Videos

This setting lets you turn off or on the ability to view videos "embedded in software", where a conventional age rating may not apply - and due to the slightly woolly description, we're not entirely sure where this would even come into play. It may apply to apps like Netflix and the iPlayer again, which were available on the Wii, but it could just as easily refer to the Wii Shop Channel, you can sometimes view trailers for other games, but as you're effectively viewing it through un-PEGI-rated software, the usual PEGI rating check isn't triggered as it would be were you playing a game. Enabling this setting will block all videos in applications like the Wii eShop, as it's impossible for the console to know which are and aren't appropriate.

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And that's your lot! By following these instructions, you can make sure your Wii U is ready to go, and ensure your children have the best possible time! If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment below!

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