THE BLOG
19/11/2013 08:42 GMT | Updated 25/01/2014 16:01 GMT

Welcome to the Zombie Crowd

When should children be allowed onto Facebook? The site says it only accepts users over the age of 13. New research published this week by Internet security giant McAfee and the Anti-Bullying Alliance says that most children use the Internet away from their parents' watchful eyes (which I can quite understand).

When should children be allowed onto Facebook? The site says it only accepts users over the age of 13. New research published this week by Internet security giant McAfee and the Anti-Bullying Alliance says that most children use the Internet away from their parents' watchful eyes (which I can quite understand).

16% have experienced online bullying and 25% know of a contemporary who has been bullied online. 45% of parents are concerned about their children's safety online. Yet the same proportion had set up a Facebook account for a child under the age of 13...

I'm not a fanatic. Social media is an amazing tool for everyone. A recent feature in the Guardian hints that children and teenagers are far more aware of internet dangers than politicians and newspaper columnists think. As the McAfee/Anti-Bullying Alliance research shows, it is us - the parents - who need online safety education.

The significant danger is that socialising on media and instantly messaging affects young people's real-world interactions. Teenagers' lives are increasingly lived online. This screws with their behaviour in the real world. I haven't got any statistics to back up my belief. But I do have the evidence of my own eyes.

Last year I travelled to Eigg, a remote island off the west coast of Scotland. I was not sure what to expect: I'd heard they have bad TV reception and Stone Age Internet. I imagined a utopia, where children spend their time beach combing and tree climbing.

My utopian bubble burst fast. The kids do go beach combing - and tree climbing. But they can also sing the entire Go Compare advert and rival my own children for time spent playing computer games. I spoke to one pair of friends. In the past they walked the mile or so along a beach to one another's houses to play after school. Now, they stay at home and instant message.

It is a story replicated across the UK. And not just by children, either. Modern city crowds look like they belong in a zombie movie: present but absent, their eyes glued to phones. In the pub the other day with three old friends, we had a strange pause in conversation while we all fiddled with our phones. Then we carried on chatting - no apologies or explanations were necessary. I am supposed to be the marketing director for Nature. What am I playing at?

Does connection with the world online happen at the expense connection with the world around us? Yes.