For many of us, actress Sally Phillips is the brash best friend of Bridget Jones, or Finnish Prime Minister Minna to Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Selina Meyer in Veep.
But to her 3 sons: 13-year-old Ollie, 10-year-old Tom, and 6-year-old Luke, she’s simply ‘mum’ – a mum like all others, trying to come to terms with their little ones’ ever-increasing reliance on screens and pressingly, their all-encompassing love for video games.
Particularly, she emphasises, popular games like Fortnite and Minecraft.
“I lose, obviously, but the basic position is no screens during the week,” Sally tells MFM.
“They say, ‘everyone in my class is on screens all the time mum, you’re the only mum that doesn’t let me on screens in the week’.
“It’s hard because the middle one’s got a phone, but the Xbox they’re not allowed on in the week.
“It’s a real point of antagonism when you take them away from them, they get angry. It’s just so hard to know what to do and I realised I had really become the enemy, and I also just didn’t know what they were doing [on their games].
“I felt like I’d just lost them, so I was trying to get them to go outside: ‘It’s sunny, let’s go outside, look, there are snails, let’s race snails! Go to the park! Or a bike ride!’ and they just want to be on the screens.”
While Sally’s rule might not be for everyone (each to their own, we say), she’s certainly not the only mum out there to admit she’s been worried – even a little frightened – of video games.
She says: “You don’t ever see reported: ‘Mum has fun time playing video games and they’re slightly less addictive than she imagined.’
“The story in the paper is: ‘17-year-old goes to meet up with guys he’s met playing computer games online and gets murdered’, so… I definitely have been worried about that, and also what affect it’s having on them.”
At least, she was, until her 10-year-old expressed an interest in playing games together as a family – rather than alone in his bedroom.
“That would probably be a really good thing to do,” Sally admits. “Instead of family games like Operation. They don’t wanna play that – they wanna play Fortnite.
“And when my middle child’s behaved really well, he wants to have a family Minecraft day.
“We did try it and I just couldn’t do it, I kept getting killed and I just didn’t know what to do and it ended up being no fun for anyone, and I thought well, he really wants to do this together.”
Despite her screen time rule, it seems Sally wasn’t keen on being ‘the enemy’ – so she swotted up on games, and ended up learning the basics of gaming from a wildly popular YouTuber called Ali A.
Now, she says, she’s just about picked up how to play Fortnite and Minecraft.
“Ali A told me that if [my son’s] in to the last 10 I’m not allowed to shut the game down, because it’s quite rare, and I know how to see whether he is in the last 10, I can find where that is on the screen now,” she laughs.
“But the battle has not been won,” she continues. “My husband and I are separated and he’s a bit more relaxed about screen time.
“So the middle one calls it ‘daddy time’ but just plays Fortnite on his phone.
“I can report from the front line there’s still a lot to do but at least I know what they’re doing now.”
Sally learnt to game with Vodafone. Watch her in action here
Have your say
Would you entertain a ‘no screens during the week’ rule – or would you totally cave in? Maybe you’ve got your own rules about video games, and screen time in general?
We’d love to hear your view. Let us know on Facebook or in the comments below…
Image: Twitter/Sally Phillips