Hours spent poring over social media sites is putting children’s health at risk, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned.

A dramatic rise in the time spent in front of tablets, computers and smartphones is causing those as young as 11 to suffer an increased risk of poor health, new research revealed.

The report also suggested the vast majority of young people were failing to take the recommended level of exercise each day, reports The Telegraph .

The findings showed between 2002 and 2014 there was a “continuous steep increase” in the number of children using technology for two hours or more each weekday.

While rates increased for both sexes, they tripled for girls aged 15 or over.

More than 200,000 children were surveyed by the Who in schools in 42 countries, including 5,335 in England, 5,932 in Scotland and 5,154 in Wales.

Lead author Dr Jo Inchley, from the University of St Andrews, said: “We know that a positive impact of social media is social connectedness and the sense of interaction. But we also know there are risks, such as cyberbullying and impact on mental health, as well as things like missing out on sleep.

“Also, there are longer-term impacts on physical health from being sedentary.

“One of the main challenges for us is that this kind of activity (social media and computer use) is so much part of young people’s lives these days, how do we manage this and the health risks associated with it?

“It’s about reducing time being spent sedentary, and ensuring that children still have opportunity to be active.

“We really need to start addressing these challenges now.”

Chairman of the National Obesity Forum Tam Fry said gadgets were taking their toll on children’s wellbeing.

“Adolescents are now slaves to handheld devices and this is doing nothing for their health.

“Incredibly, teenagers believe that playing computer games with their friends from the privacy of their bedrooms is a form of physical activity and rebel if grounded from their Facebooks or Instagrams.”

The report is being presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Porto, Portugal.

Follow The Wharf on Twitter and Instagram @thewharfnews

Keep up to date with all our articles on Facebook