Los Angeles: A survey has found that the traditional art of letter writing is fast dying out among children, as they turn to email, text messages and social networking websites, to communicate.
The survey showed that one-in-ten schoolchildren have never written a letter by hand, and almost a third of teenagers have failed to put pen to paper for more than a year.
By comparison, almost half of pupils use website such as Facebook and Bebo to communicate with friends every week.
The study commissioned by the charity World Vision prompted fresh fears over a decline in writing skills among a generation of schoolchildren.
A rise in the use of computers has already been linked to poor spelling, punctuation and grammar as pupils become over-reliant on electronic checkers.
"If children do not write or receive letters they miss out on key developmental benefits," the Telegraph quoted Sue Palmer, former head teacher and author of the book Toxic Childhood, as saying.
"Handwritten letters are much more personal than electronic communication. The effort of writing is a very real one for a child; painstakingly manoeuvring the pencil across the page, thinking of the best words to convey a message, struggling with spelling and punctuation.
It is, however, an effort worth making, because it’s only through practice that we become truly literate - and literacy is the hallmark of human civilisation.
"If we care about real relationships, we should invest in real communication, not just the quick fix of a greetings card, text or email," she stated.
In the latest study, YouGov surveyed almost 1,200 children aged seven to 14, and found that 10 per cent of young people had never written a letter, rising to 13 per cent among boys alone.
The poll, conducted to mark the charity’s National Letter Writing Day, revealed children were less likely to write letters, as they got older.
Some 31 per cent of pupils aged 13 or 14 had not written a letter for at least a year.
But in the last week, half of all children said they had written an email or a message using a social networking website, rising to around eight-in-ten among teenagers.
The study also suggested that many youngsters were leaving primary school unable to set out a letter, and that almost half of 11-year-olds said they were confused over the correct layout.
The findings come amid rising concerns over basic writing skills among children.
In 2008, it emerged that examiners were struggling to mark test papers because pupils`` handwriting was so illegible.
One of Britain’s biggest exam boards said some writing was now so bad that adults should be allowed to act as "scribes" during tests.
Pupils were also increasingly making serious spelling mistakes after relying on spell-checkers and on-line dictionaries to correct errors, it was claimed.