Children who spend large amounts of time glued to a computer risk developing mental health problems such as loneliness, depression and anxiety, government health advisers have warned.
In a hard-hitting paper, Public Health England, which advises the NHS and government, makes a clear link between the overuse of the internet and social networking sites and lower self-esteem.
Those that spend more than four hours a day looking at a screen are particularly vulnerable to mental illnesses, the report says, according to the Daily Mail.
The findings will continue to fuel the debate over the health risks of social networking sites and computer games as companies like Facebook come under fire for failing to have a more effective age checking system for new joiners.
You must be 13 or over to join Facebook, but many younger children hold accounts.
“Children who spend more time on computers, watching TV and playing video games, tend to experience higher levels of emotional distress, anxiety and depression,” the report said.
Some 750,000 teenagers, the study found, are so depressed they have “nothing to live for”.
The report has been passed to the Commons health select committee, which has launched an inquiry into child mental health in England, the newspaper reported.