Pope Francis has previously been an outspoken advocate about the benefits of Twitter and the way the web can bring people together – but has now warned of the dangers such activities can bring.

Speaking to German altar servers, the pontiff said young people ‘waste too many hours on futile things’ and this is distracting them from ‘what is really important’.

He added that futile activities include chatting on the internet and smartphones, and watching TV soap operas.

During an address to the 50,000 young servers, who are on a pilgrimage to Rome, Pope Francis said: ‘Our life is made up of time, and time is a gift from God, so it is important that it be used in good and fruitful actions.’

He continued that these activities ‘should simplify and improve the quality of life, but distract attention away from what is really important.’

The 77-year-old pope has Twitter accounts in several languages.

They were first used by his predecessor Benedict in 2011, and his English language account has 4.3 million followers.

In January, Pope Francis declared the internet is a ‘gift from God’ because it brings people from different cultures together.

In a statement about Catholic Church communications, Pope Francis said the web offers ‘immense possibilities’ for differing points of view to be heard, including those that oppose or question the Catholic religion.

Yet added our obsession with online conversations should never be used at the detriment of having face-to-face conversations with neighbours, friends and family.