SO children prefer their mobiles and tablets to watching TV.

That was a headline of the week - but not news to anyone with a child at home.

Traditional TV watching is on the decline - down from three hours a day to two, while using the internet has gone up from two hours a day to three.

Unsurprisingly, the findings of the survey by Childwise immediately rekindled the debate over whether we are losing our children to a brave new world of online technology which knows no bounds.

I caught a psychologist on BBC Breakfast warning that the side effects of too much small screen time could be long lasting and impact on our children's lives in ways we probably hadn't thought about.

She suggested that overuse of mobile devices could deter youngsters from developing eye contact which could later stop them building relationships, being successful at work and even forming intimate relationships and getting married.

YouTube, it seems, has a lot to answer for.

A mum spoke from the studio sofa giving a more relaxed view from the home front. She accepted that kids preferred their mobiles and tablets to TV but said her son would sit with the rest of the family while he was online and that appeased her.

The use of social media by teens was a hot topic of discussion with friends we had over for dinner at the weekend. The father admitted he had struggled at first seeing his daughters rarely without their heads down, phones in hand, especially at breakfast. But then he relented. He viewed it as them reconnecting with their world after being off-line all night. The family also had another rule - the girls' phones were not allowed in their bedrooms upstairs, so if they wanted to use them they had to do so in the family rooms.

We have tried to set some rules too for our teen. We tell her to switch the phone off at 8.30pm and leave it downstairs. There are complaints though, because her mobile is not just a vehicle for watching YouTube, the iPlayer and catching up with mates on Instagram and What's App social media sites, but for listening to music via Spotify. It's hard to argue against letting her brush her teeth or get ready for bed while hearing her favourite bands - but the temptation then is to quickly check notifications to see what her friends are up to.

The point is however, and most parents will be facing this, we are in uncharted territory. Our children are the first generation to grow up with the internet at their fingertips 24/7.

Although we can harbour some guesses as to how this might affect them, we cannot know for sure. For this reason it is difficult to know how to set boundaries and impose rules.

We can only go by common sense. We must encourage our children to spend quality time without their devices - with both family and friends. Real-time communication is more important than ever and will help them navigate the fraught world of relationships just like we had to. We can teach them how to stay safe online, by keeping their accounts private and not posting anything about themselves or their friends they might regret. We can try to keep them active - and lead by example by taking up a sport together, or at the very least getting out for family walks.

Ultimately, we mustn't think of the internet as the enemy. It has as much, if not more, power to do good than harm. It literally is the fount of all knowledge and the most wonderful educational resource for our children - indeed for all of us. It allows us to stay connected in ways that hardly seemed possible just a few years ago.

It also allows us to watch the TV we want and when we want it, as well as films too.

If we can sometimes do that all together as a family then that would be satisfying indeed.