I held back letting the kids watch TV for as long as I could, until I couldn’t.
We came to Beijing a few months ago and moved into a house that unexpectedly had one too many problems. Fortunately my mother-in-law was with me at the time to help me take care of the two babies while I ran errands. Unfortunately though, the unfamiliar food and the putrid pollution were really starting to take its toll on her. I knew I needed to give her a daily break, even if just for half an hour (a task the Ayi couldn’t help her with since the kids didn’t like her yet). The easiest solution that came to mind was “The Screen.”
There are scores of sites detailing the bad effects of TV on very young children, and naturally I fell in line and did my best to limit my children’s screen time. It was sadly a task easier to implement back home than in Beijing, and so I decided to give in.
My husband stopped short of bringing out the champagne glasses when I said I was giving in to TV. “Twenty minutes max!” I added. Like a proud child, he invited me to sit by him on the couch as he clicked away on the tiny remote control of our Xiao III Mi Box—probably the best thing about the apartment—introducing me to the different programs and functions available. Though I have to admit that the different services I saw amazed me, there was really only one category that interested me.
The cartoon selection.
Getting there was easy. First, we click on the 电视猫视频 icon.
Then we choose 少儿.
There are four options visible. The one most left usually has something to do with a celebration (e.g. New Year’s, etc.). The second one is where your favorites are stored; the third one has the entire collection of cartoons while the fourth one is for music. He entered the second option and showed me the list of programs. I gave him a smirk relaxed into a half-smile. “Ow-kay… kids! Come watch with Daddy!” I started for the kitchen to do the dishes while my mother-in-law took our infant to play in her room while she rested (she is also not very pro-TV). My eldest daughter was squealing excitedly until the show finally started.
“I’ll be right back,” I told her. But it was too late to expect a reply. She was zombified.
As I was drying the dishes I heard my eldest daughter start crying. “MOMMY!”
I went back into the living room and stared at my daughter, who was by then bawling. I looked at my husband and then immediately looked to the TV. I laughed.
“I don’t know how!” My husband explained to my daughter. “Wifey, fix this!”
A screen had appeared, and it said that time was up and we had two options: either we end the program now or we end it AFTER this particular show was done. I explained my daughter’s options to her. Naturally, she wanted to finish the show.
She still cried after finishing the show even though we had already struck a deal earlier on, but that didn’t matter. What mattered to me more was that our TV had a parental control option, allowing me to control the program my daughter could watch and how much time she could watch it. I didn’t notice it earlier because it was hidden behind the time on the lower right.
Since then, I’ve stopped hesitating from letting my kids watch TV. I let them watch some programs or some songs within a certain time limit (20 minutes in our case). My mother-in-law has gone back since then, but this newfound freedom has allowed me to do so much without worrying that I will let time slip by or that screen time will become a fight. The kids are happy, I’m happy, and yes, maybe now we can bring out the champagne glasses.