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She points out that virtual friendships are no substitute for those forged in person.
'My research suggests that screen saturation at an earlier age means children don't develop the social skills and emotional resilience they need to cope with what is quite a challenging century.' Claude Knights, director of the children's charity Kidscape, concurs: 'We speak to a lot of parents who say that the whole balance of their children's lives has gone.
The charity Child Line counsels 5,500 children for loneliness every year.
'The reality is that the popularity such sites confer is a mirage,' confirms online agony aunt Hilary Freeman.
These are things we use to establish empathy with other people and they are being undermined.' To children who are naturally shy and struggle to make friends in the classroom or playground, the internet can at first seem like a saviour, not least because of the ease with which apparent relationships can be forged.
'It's much easier to build a relationship with someone over the internet,' says social psychologist Dr Arthur Cassidy.
'And the worst thing about it was that it didn't seem to be making her at all happy.
then you have a relationship with a microchip.'It is surely no coincidence that, despite the ready availability of tens of thousands of cyber-friends, among young people loneliness remains a major problem.'We're losing social skills, the human interaction skills,' he says.'Too much exclusive use of electronic information dehumanises what is a very, very important part of community life and living together.' He also warned there are graver things at stake than a simple inability to function well in a real-life social environment.Her eyes would glaze over, her concentration span diminished and she seemed uninterested in everything except how many messages she'd got.' When a teacher at parents' day also voiced concerns that Alice wasn't joining in as much in class, Anna decided not to give her daughter's online habits the benefit of the doubt. This week Archbishop Vincent Nichols, the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England, joined the debate, warning that the trend towards creating an alternative reality of fragile virtual relationships leaves children and teenagers vulnerable when these broke down.'They throw themselves into a friendship or network of friendships, then it collapses and they're desolate,' he says.
'One of the results of the social networking phenomenon is that quantity has replaced quality as the marker of friendship.