Despite guidelines from the Canadian Paediatric Society cautioning against it, a study released Wednesday suggests more than half of Vancouver parents let their toddlers use or watch electronic devices.

The study was conducted by a team of nurses mentored by UBC professor Wendy Hall and public health nurse Reda Wilkes. The team surveyed 242 parents of children under two, who they met at community centres throughout the city.

Parents were asked whether they allowed their children to use devices such as tablets and smartphones, and for those who did, nurses asked how much time their kids spent with the electronics.

"Parents often feel judged and evaluated. It's really tough," Wilkes told CTV News Wednesday.

About four-in-ten said their children were not allowed any screen time, in line with recommendations from the CPS for babies and toddlers.

But 40.5 per cent said their kids were allowed as much as 30 minutes per day, and the remaining 17.5 per cent allowed an hour or more.

"When you turn on a screen, your child turns into a zombie," Wilkes said.

"I myself really think twice about every time I pick up my phone in front of my children."

Hall said she thought the results would be worse, but ceded that parents may have underreported.

One of the main reasons those surveyed gave for letting their kids have screen time was as a way to keep them occupied while they did household chores.

Vancouver mom Laura Schummers said she's heard from friends it's also a good way to keep children quiet when out for dinner.

Schummers, the mother of 2.5-year-old Salish, said her son doesn't get any time on her phone.

"We believe that disrupts his brain development," she said, but added he gets one exception: "FaceTime with Grandma who lives far away."

While screens are a way to give parents a break, experts say any amount of time is too much for young children.

Benjamin Wong, an addictions expert with the Richmond Addiction Services Society, said he's seen plenty of three- and four-year-olds who have trouble letting screens go.

"It's always good to think about the purpose of putting a kid in front of the screen," he said, adding that it’s become common for parents to use devices like “a pacifier.”

Schummers said she plans to hold off until Salish turns four.

"Once you open the door, your kids will ask for it. If you don't open that door, they don't know what they're missing."

With a report from CTV Vancouver's David Molko