Facebook has been attacked by one of its founding members for "exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology" and putting children's mental health at risk, the Daily Telegraph reports.

Sean Parker, former president of Facebook who joined Mark Zuckerberg's company in its first months, said the company's founders intentionally built the site to consume as much human attention as possible.

Parker, who has made billions as an early shareholder in the social network, also criticised Facebook's effect on children.

"It literally changes your relationship with society, with each other," he told news site Axios.

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"It probably interferes with productivity in weird ways. God only knows what it's doing to our children's brains."

"The inventors, creators... understood this consciously. And we did it anyway," Parker said.

Facebook was created to be addictive. Photo / 123rf
Facebook was created to be addictive. Photo / 123rf

Parker, a former hacker who founded file-sharing website Napster, said he had become a "conscientious objector" to the social networking site.

His stint at Facebook was short-lived. He resigned from the site in 2005 after a cocaine scandal.

Facebook and internet addiction have been found to show up in brain scans in a similar way to drug addiction.

Instagram, which is also owned by Facebook, was found to have to have the worst impact on young people's self-esteem, negatively impacting people's body image, sleep and fear of missing out.

Facebook came under fire earlier this week for asking users to send in nude pictures they feared would be leaked on the social network so it could automatically block the images if they were uploaded as revenge porn.

Several Silicon Valley entrepreneurs have expressed concerns about the so-called "war for your attention" as Google, Facebook and other internet giants compete for user interaction.

Tristan Harris, a former Google engineer, said on Twitter, "the race to bottom of the brain stem is not my opinion, it's the truth - I'm describing how the system works... This isn't about criticising the tech industry, it's about urgent need to reform the way the attention economy works."

Parker, 37, was portrayed by Justin Timberlake in The Social Network.

Arrested by the FBI for hacking at 16, he went on to found controversial file-sharing website Napster in 1999, which was later shut down under legal challenges from the music industry.

He has invested in a series of other companies, including Spotify, serving on the music streaming service's board for a period, although he now devotes most of his time to philanthropy.