My child has trouble with ADHD, social skills, and motor skills and wants to play the Nintendo Switch. What do I need to know?

If your child struggles with ADHD, social skills, or motor skills, there are some important things to know before you buy a Nintendo Switch.

The Nintendo Switch is a popular video game system that kids and families can play together. It can connect to a television for traditional gameplay. It also has a screen and can be used as a portable, hand-held gaming system. And the Switch's Joy-Con controllers have motion sensors for movement games.

As with all technology, including video games and television, there are screen-time concerns to watch out for. Kids, especially those with ADHD, often struggle with transitioning from task to task. They may resist when you ask them to turn the Switch off. That's why it's important for you to have rules to manage screen time and to monitor any online use (fortunately, the Switch's parental controls are easy to learn). Make sure to look at additional screen-time guidelines if your child has ADHD.

If you can manage screen time, there are some specific things to know about Nintendo Switch for kids with ADHD or social or motor skills issues.

Nintendo Switch involves social gaming.

Parents often worry about kids playing video games alone, which may not be good for kids with ADHD or social skills issues. Nintendo Switch is different: The game system encourages group play.

If you own enough controllers, games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe can have up to 12 people playing competitive games at the same time. Another popular game, Snipperclips, allows up to four players to work cooperatively as a team to solve puzzles. This group interaction can open the door for interaction and communication.

Social gaming can stimulate conversation skills.

Because of the social gaming involved with Nintendo Switch, playing could help improve kids' conversation skills. Quiet kids will have to speak up to make sure they don't miss their turn. And some games will require talking out problem-solving strategies as a team.

There's also the shared conversation that comes from being a Nintendo fan. Many kids love discussing their favorite Super Mario characters, as well as secret tips and tricks in the games. This shared interest can help spark social interaction with other kids at school.

Kids may want to read (to win).

Most Nintendo Switch games are intuitive and easy to learn, mainly through trial and error. However, kids who enjoy more complex games like Minecraft for Nintendo Switch or Splatoon 2 will encounter text phrases and captions that pop up while they're playing.

Younger kids may need help to figure these out. But don't be surprised if you hear your child reading words out loud, without argument, while playing. Kids will want to read if it leads to a hidden feature, secret move, or tip to win.

Movement games help kids get energy out.

The Switch's controllers attach to the wrist with a strap and easily fit in the palm of the hand. By following on-screen prompts, kids can play a variety of movement games.

For example, Just Dance gives kids the chance to move their arms and legs while grooving to popular music. Even if kids don't dance perfectly, chances are they can still have fun and feel success. And movement breaks can help kids with ADHD let out physical energy to stay focused for other tasks.

Kids can practice motor skills.

Kids with motor skills issues can be reluctant to try physical exercises to improve strength and coordination. The Switch offers a game-based way to encourage kids to practice these skills.

For example, the game 1-2 Switch lets two players compete by acting out simple virtual activities. Using the controllers, kids can win by milking a cow, shaking a bottle of soda, or rocking out to an imaginary air guitar.

No video game system will fix a specific motor skill deficit. But the Switch's controllers can create experiences that help kids practice their fine and gross motor skills.

The system is portable, which can help with parent monitoring.

One final benefit of Nintendo Switch is that, unlike most video game consoles, it can be played anywhere: The console itself is portable. It can easily be packed in a backpack or purse for family events and holiday gatherings. You can set up the Switch in the backyard or at the kitchen table so you can monitor gameplay, even if your child is playing alone.

All that said, video games aren't for every family. And excessive use of digital media may increase the symptoms of ADHD. Buying a video game system is a personal family decision wherein you have to weigh the pros and cons.

By Keri Wilmot, an occupational therapist and Understood.org expert

Shared in partnership with Understood.org, a free resource and community supporting parents of the one in five kids with learning and attention issues, like dyslexia and ADHD. Common Sense Media is a founding partner of Understood.org. Copyright ⓒ Understood.org USA LLC 2018.

 
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