Tablet entertainment might settle your kid down in no time, but new research from the University of Alberta shows that this simple parenting solution might actually have the opposite effect long term.
Headed by associate professor Dr. Piush Mandhane, the study — published in the journal PLOS ONE — found that children who spent two or more hours staring at a screen every day were 7.7 times more likely to develop Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) by the age of 5, in comparison to those who spent just 30 minutes or less.
“Children should develop a healthy relationship with screens as young as 3 to 5 years of age,” Dr. Mandhane told ABC News. “Our data suggests that between zero and 30 minutes per day is the optimal amount of screen time.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests limiting screen use to a maximum of one hour a day “of high-quality programming” for preschool children ages 2 to 5, while the only screen time they advise for kids younger than 2 years old is video chatting.
However, in a conversation with PEOPLE last month, Facebook’s Global Head of Safety Antigone Davis advised that screen time is not a one-size-fits-all concept, and that parents should make decisions on a case-by-case basis instead of following generalized recommendations.
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Davis told PEOPLE that parents should “really think about what their families’ needs are” before limiting screen time — in some circumstances, it might actually aid in communication. She shared a real-life example: a firefighter who told her that he uses a video chat app to read bedtime stories to his kids when he works late.
“It was really sweet and nice, and something that he wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise,” she said. “That screen time [is beneficial] if your 3-year-old is at home and you really want to be able to make that connection. You don’t want to say, ‘No, no screen time.’ ”
Although face-to-face connection and direct engagement with kids is preferred, it’s not always realistic. As Davis added, “It’s really nice to be able to do some kind of connection via a device. One of the things the American Academy of Pediatrics has really focused in on [is] the differences in screen time, and really trying to identify and give guidance to parents on that.”
“Hopefully we can help support by providing things like Messenger Kids, providing tools. Inside Facebook, you can set a daily reminder of how much time you’ve been inside the app. So really trying to give people the tools that they need, the resources that they need, and encouraging conversation,” she told PEOPLE. “I think families are trying to figure this out together.”
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Luckily, a device that pairs with an app called Circle may provide a solution. Circle is a screen-management service that allows families to manage multiple devices in their network, both inside the home and out.
Circle CEO Andrew Olson tells PEOPLE exclusively that Circle “manages everything from smartphones, to game consoles, to PCs — all of the different things.” He and his team recognized that families have different screen-time needs and created the app to accommodate each and every one.
“Families tend to come in two flavors: There are families with younger kids who are mostly focused on what’s on the WiFi in their house, and there are parents with older kids where they have a smartphone and often realize they can get around the WiFi control in the house by switching to cellular or taking it over to their friend’s house,” Olson tells PEOPLE. “We have solutions for both of those situations across all of the different devices.”
Olson added that using the app is a hassle-free experience for both parents and children. And, after using the app with his own young family, he knows that it can alleviate those stressful parenting conversations about screen time.
“It takes the argument between the kid and the parent away,” Olson tells PEOPLE. “The (app) takes on that burden.”
The Circle Home Plus device retails for $129 at meetcircle.com. It includes a membership for the first year, costing $10/month after that.