A new study claims that the amount of 'screen time' kids are spending in front of TVs, consoles and computers is creating barriers between parents and their offspring.

ChildWise's annual study of 1,800 five- to 16-year-olds at 92 schools across the UK claims that kids are spending an average of six hours of screen time a day,

Girls are more likely than boys to IM their mates in the evenings, with 38 per cent of 9-13 year-old girls in the survey now taking a console to bed instead of a book.

Social networking growth

30per cent of those surveyed claimed to have a blog and 62 per cent have a profile on a social networking site such as MySpace or Bebo.

"This year has seen a major boost to the intensity and the independence with which children approach online activities," says ChildWise's report.

Worryingly (for the book publishing trade, at least) The Guardian notes that, "reading books is falling out of favour - 84% said they read for pleasure in 2006, 80% in 2007 and 74% this year."

Computers more essential than TV

One in three of the kids in the survey claim that they could not live without a computer. Compared to one in five that claim they could not live without a telly.

Rosemary Duff, ChildWise's research director, said: "The internet has moved to a whole new level. They are watching the same amount of TV but there is a change in the way children communicate and get their information.

"They are a generation abandoning print and paper, and the whole integration of technology and the way they glide from one to the other is seamless. They will be surfing the net, talking to a friend and downloading a track simultaneously."

Psychologist Tanya Byron warned the government last year that there was a growing 'digital divide' between parents and kids that needed to be addressed as a matter of urgency.