With Father's Day coming up this weekend, we wanted to celebrate Dads by sharing this exclusive chat we had at TimeTokens HQ with Superdad Phil Spencer. He tells us how screentime affects his own kids and family and guess who his is favourite Frazzle is!
Phil you are hugely busy with your work, which involves a great deal of time away. But you are a dad of two boys too. How have you so far managed to balance the roles?
“I’m away 2-3 day/nights during the school week. I try and justify it to myself by always making sure I’m around during the school holidays and I don’t travel then.”
At what age did your boys start to use screens (tablet / phone / laptop)?
“I think Jake was 6 or 7 when he first used an ipad which must be around the time when they were first released. Straight away he was very in-tune with how to use it and I remember having conversations about how his brain must be wired differently to mine and how he instinctively knew how to navigate, figure out codes etc. Ben, his younger brother wasn’t so interested and still isn’t that interested in technology. Jake loves information and Ben is our action man, he loves sports and running around.”
On occasion, have you ever thought that they are a little too much on their screens? And if so, what were the consequences?
“Yes I have. When there is nothing laid on to do or nothing organised it’s very easy for them to pick up a device….”Mum and Dad are not telling me to do anything and I can easily pick something up and be entertained”. What I have also noticed is the battle of getting them off the screen is harder if they have had too much time on it, something seems to change in their brain … I don’t know why”
“If you put a group of lads on Minecraft, they are all together in the same room, they all say they are having a nice time and it’s fun but they are not communicating, or talking, it’s very different experience being a child today.”
Did you develop any ‘creative’ tactics you can recommend to manage such dilemmas?
“No I wish I had. It’s really difficult physically removing them from a screen when they get so engrossed in it “just one more turn?”, then they are off again. Once they finally get off the device it takes them a while to get out of their mood.”
‘ING’ activities are fun alternatives to screen time (The Frazzles are very keen on them!) Things like cook’ing’, cycl’ing’, renovat’ing’ etc. What were your favourite ‘ING’ activities when you were a young boy? And do you think they helped mould you into the person you are today?
“When I was young I loved running around the farm, exploring, building camps and being outdoors. I also remember we were never allowed TV before 5pm and after lunch everyday we had quiet time in our bedrooms. I guess it was good for us, we didn’t have any entertainment laid on and had to read or be creative and make up a game. I’m sure all those early experiences have shaped me in someway.”
“Ben is very active and loves being outside. Jake likes playing with Lego, reading and information. I think children will pick up on what their parents are passionate about. Jake has talked about being an architect but no they are not into yoga!”
Do you have a favourite Frazzle? (Each Time Token denomination features a different frazzle)
“My favourite Frazzle is Wiggle, I think we’d have fun climbing and building camps.”
What would you say to families who are looking to keep a good screen-time balance?
“Keep looking for it. It is the topic for our generation of parents to get to grips with. I’m sure each generation has had a parenting challenge to deal with and screentime balance is definitely ours as we have very little experience of it from our own childhood.”
Thank you for your time Phil and we hope you have a wonderful day with your family next Sunday,
Happy Fathers day to all those fabulous dads out there and please don't forget to switch off with us for National Unplugging Day on 25 June!