An Oxford academic has told the House of Lords that electronic entertainment and social networking sites like Facebook could harm users mentally.Baroness Susan Greenfield, Professor of Synaptic Pharmacology at Lincoln College, said social networking websites could “infantilize” the human brain and cause users to lose their sense of identity.She told the Lords that communications via websites such as Facebook “are devoid of cohesive narrative and long-term significance. As a consequence, the mid-21st century mind might almost be infantilized, characterised by short attention spans, sensationalism, inability to empathize and a shaky sense of identity.”“It is hard to see how living this way on a daily basis will not result in brains, or rather minds, different from those of previous generations,” she added.Greenfield argued that social sites, along with computer games, might contribute to a rise in cases of Attention Deficit Disorder.“If the young brain is exposed from the outset to a world of fast action and reaction, of instant new screen images flashing up with the press of a key, such rapid interchange might accustom the brain to operate over such timescales. Perhaps when in the real world such responses are not immediately forthcoming, we will see such behaviours and call them attention-deficit disorder.”“It might be helpful to investigate whether the near total submersion of our culture in screen technologies over the last decade might in some way be linked to the threefold increase over this period in prescriptions for methylphenidate, the drug prescribed for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.”Greenfield went further to suggest that a reliance on interacting and communicating with others via a computer could lead to a loss of empathy and responsibility.However, students who use social networking websites frequently expressed skepticism over Greenfield’s remarks. One second-year English student said, “I think she’s going a bit over the top. All of us use Facebook – it’s just a convenient way of staying in touch. It promotes communication, rather than hinders it.”“People who live in a bizarre Facebook world are probably the sort of people who would never socialise normally anyway. Physicists, and so on,” he added.Professor Greenfield is currently in South Africa, and was unable to comment on whether she felt Oxford students were at risk by their use of social networking sites.