The Office for National Statistics has released a report that finds a "clear association" between social networking websites and children's mental health.

Children are spending more time on social sites

Children are spending more time on social sites

Children who spend more than three hours per day on sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are more than twice as likely to struggle with mental health problems, according to official figures.

The majority of young people (56 percent) reported spending up to three hours a day on social media, while around eight percent of those surveyed admitted to using sites like Facebook, Pinterest and Snapchat for more than three hours every day. The report also found that girls are more likely than boys to be glued to their social networks.

The report found a "clear association" between excessive time spent on social websites and the incidence of mental health problems, as only 12 percent of children who spend no time on social networks exhibited symptoms of mental illness, while 27 percent of those spending three or more hours a day showed signs of mental ill-health.

Child and adolescent psychiatrist Dr Hayley Van Zwanberg, of the Priory Group told the Telegraph: "Children are totally immersed in a virtual world which is damaging both to the way they see themselves and the way they perceive the real world; some young children are finding it hard to unpick reality from fantasy."

According to the report, "ever-present" social media can provide "an additional way to connect with others and form relationships", but these sites may also be "a source of social comparison, cyber bullying and isolation," which leads to declining mental health amongst the youth.

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