Melbourne: A leading neuroscientist has said that youths addicted to social networking sites are struggling to relate.
The fact that they have hundreds of friends on such sites leads to one questioning the type of relationship they have.
Baroness Susan Greenfield says more research is needed to establish a possible link between Facebook and a lack of empathy among the young.
"If you are not rehearsing looking someone in the eye in three dimensions, but instead you have 900 friends on Facebook ... one does question what kind of relationship they might be having," a news daily quoted her as telling the National Press Club in Canberra.
"We are being complacent in the extreme if you just dismiss me as a whingeing, middle-aged Luddite," she stated.
The Professor of Pharmacology at Oxford University was more positive about the virtues of an ageing brain.
Finding a way to delay the onset of dementia by five years could also save Australian taxpayers 67.5 billion dollars over the next three decades, she said.
When it came to the young, Baroness Greenfield said, more research was needed to see if Internet usage was linked to attention deficit disorder (ADD).
"Perhaps it`s mandating a shorter attention span. I``m not saying it is but I`m saying, `Wouldn`t it be worth exploring`," she questioned.
The three-fold increase in Ritalin prescriptions - medication for ADD and ADHD - during the past decade in Britain could be a possible sign of a changing environment.
She suggested more research should be dedicated towards exploring what made computer software programs so addictive.
"No one has actually written the question: `What do we do with that time?`," she said.
"Do we just play computer games? That is a really important issue to address," she added.
Baroness Greenfield is touring Australia on behalf of the Australian Society for Medical Research.