British kids cram in six hours screen time daily

British children (five to 16 year olds) are spending almost six hours a day in front of screens - TV, computers and games consoles - according to research by Childwise, reported in The Guardian .

Online activity is building barriers between parents and children, the authors say, with a third of young people insisting they cannot live without their computer.

The report found that from the age of seven children are building multimedia hubs in their rooms, with games consoles, internet access and MP3 players, which they wake up to and fall asleep with

Girls in particular are likely to chat online to their friends at night and 38% take a console to bed instead of a book.

Young teens are more likely to socialise than do homework online, with 30% saying they have a blog and 62% have a profile on a social networking site.

One in three said the computer is the single thing they couldn't live without, compared with a declining number - one in five - who name TV.

Pupils are using the internet less while at school, frustrated by the low-tech access and the restrictions put in place to stop them from accessing inappropriate material. Younger girls are now catching up with boys in the use of games consoles.

The report is based on an annual survey, now into its 15th year, of 1,800 children at 92 schools in the UK. 'This year has seen a major boost to the intensity and the independence with which children approach online activities,' the report says.

Children who use the internet spend on average 1.7 hours a day online, but one in six spent more than three hours a day online on top of the 1.5 hours they spent on their games consoles. They still have time for 2.7 hours of TV - though the report says they tend to multitask.

Reading books is falling out of favour - 84% said they read for pleasure in 2006, 80% in 2007 and 74% this year.

Rosemary Duff of Childwise says, 'It's hard for the older generation to understand what's going on with their children because they communicate in a completely different way.'