People who excessively use social media exhibit the same bad decision-making traits as drug addicts and pathological gamblers, according to a study published in January.

Researchers at Michigan State University found a connection between high social media use and the risky decision making commonly found in other types of addiction.

Academics said it also had the potential to cause long-term harm to emotions, behaviour and relationships.

Such findings are of concern to everyone who uses social media, but there is particular alarm for families with children who have spent almost their entire lives with a smartphone in hand.

According to another recent survey more than a third of young Scots say they felt pressure to live up to the unrealistic expectations of life portrayed on social media.

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), has now called for schools to become “safe bastions” against the rising tide of gaming and social media.

But he also told an audience of headteachers and deputy heads who are members of the EIS that key subjects such as music, art and drama which could equip pupils with the skills they were missing out on were being squeezed out of the curriculum.

He told the conference in Edinburgh: “Neuroscientists tell us that there is an impact of social media and gaming on the way the brain works and for the younger generation that is something that they have experienced nearly all of their lives.

“It is creating increasing isolation and increasing stress for a significant number of young people and that alternative reality will have ramifications for society down the line.

“I think schools have to be a safe bastion where social media, while it is part of the pupil’s lives, is not part of the school life, so they interact with other pupils, get involved in art, drama and music and have real life experiences in contrast to how they live outside of school.”

Mr Flanagan praised schools that banned phones for a day to give pupils a “detox” from the world of social media.

However, he warned that many of the subjects which would prepare pupils best for the world were getting squeezed out through a combination of budget cuts and an over focus on literacy and numeracy and qualifications prized by universities.

“The Curriculum for Excellence was supposed to nurture creativity and cultural heritage and engagement, but it is just getting squeezed out,” he said.

Eileen Prior, executive director of parent body Connect, backed the call.

She said: “Schools offer children really valuable face-to-face experiences and opportunities at a time when pupil’s lives are increasingly online.

“Access to books and to expressive arts subjects such as art, music and drama are all really important to children and young people’s confidence and wellbeing. We remain concerned that these experiences and opportunities are narrowing in schools.”

Joanna Murphy, chairwoman of the National Parent Forum for Scotland, said families valued the “human” aspect of formal schooling.

She said: “Communication is key in all human dynamics and can’t be replaced by digital means.

“Subjects like drama and art are valuable as pupils invest emotionally in them and foster transferable skills useful for their life ahead.

“Schools can’t replace the family home, but can and should be a refuge from an ever more fast paced world.”

Dorothy MacGinty, head of Kilgraston, an independent school for girls in Bridge of Earn, near Perth, said a decision to ban mobile phones last year was reaping rewards.

She said: “Lessons are more interactive, concentration is better and pupils are more engaged in assemblies and particularly co-curricular activities.

“It is vital that schools push activities which deliberately develop these soft skills such as team building, sport, drama and music which all develop critical thinking and self-confidence.

“If schools are to properly educate young people to become the successful and effective members of society they are capable of becoming, a healthy balance of screen time and activity which nurtures soft skills is essential.”

Speaking to the EIS conference, John Swinney, the Education Secretary, said the new curriculum would only fully deliver for pupils when schools embraced the new powers he wanted to give them.

He said: “I am fully behind the Curriculum for Excellence, but it will only reach its full potential and have the impact we believe it can have on the young people of Scotland if it is able to be delivered by a profession that is confident in itself and is creative about how it takes forward that approach.

“That is why our education reforms are designed to put the power to change lives directly in the hands of those with the expertise and insight to target resources in the most valuable way.

“It is a vision that requires the Scottish Government, local government and teachers to work together with a range of partners to drive improvement.”