Opinion | Smartphone Addiction Among the Young

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To the Editor:

Re “The Smartphone Trap,” by Jonathan Haidt and Jean M. Twenge (Opinion guest essay, Sunday Review, Aug. 1):

The rise of smartphone addiction among teenagers is undeniably real. However, the proposed solution of locking students’ phones up cold turkey (during school hours) may not be ideal.

My high school participated in a program that involved completely locking up students’ phones throughout the entire school day (in 2019-20). Through many conversations with my peers, I noticed that this solution — with the goal of helping students “practice the lost art of paying full attention to the people around them,” as your essay put it — produced unintended repercussions.

In fact, increased anxiety as a result of smartphone restriction often hindered students’ ability to fully engage with other students and teachers throughout the school day. Perhaps a smarter solution may include gradually weaning students off their smartphones, and increased education regarding responsible smartphone use.

Rushaad Mistry
Foster City, Calif.
The writer is a high school student.

To the Editor:

Yes, face-to-face conversation among college students has declined during the time of smartphones. Fifteen years ago, I would enter a noisy college classroom to teach a class and have to draw the attention of the students, who were gabbing away with classmates. “It’s 9 o’clock; time to begin class,” I would say in a loud voice to end the student buzz.

Now I enter quiet college classrooms. The students are not speaking to each other; they have their faces buried in their cellphones. I urge them to keep their cellphones under wraps from the time that they enter the classroom and to speak to the students sitting near them. “The student sitting next to you might become your best friend, your spouse. The person might donate a kidney to you if you are in need.”

I try, but the allure of the smartphone usually triumphs.

James Tackach
Narragansett, R.I.
The writer is a professor of English at Roger Williams University.

To the Editor:

​Social media has many possible negative psychological and social effects. But perhaps the plunging happiness and self​-​esteem of teenage​ girls is due to another effect of smartphones: ​e​asy access to online pornography. Viewing degrading images of women in pornography can be traumatic, and the message is clear: Women are sex objects to be used for any purpose and disposed of at will.

​The knowledge that the boys they know are using these images could lead to despair and cynicism among girls. The images may also ​ encourage comparison of body​ type and a belief that being shaved and waxed as well as thin is necessary for attractiveness.

Anne Rettenberg
San Rafael, Calif​.
The writer is a ​licensed clinical social worker​.

To the Editor:

Thank you for this all-important article. The issue of smartphones for children and teenagers does not receive the attention it needs; as your article points out, it is a serious threat to our youth.

The best practice of all is parental delay in adding full internet and social media to a young person’s phone, metering those out as the youth advances along the elementary, middle and high school years — along with weekly parental supervision of the phone.

Linda Bishop
Jacksonville, Fla.
The writer is a retired public-school teacher.

Cash Still Has a Place in a Digital World

To the Editor:

Re “The United States Should Create a Digital Dollar” (Opinion guest essay, July 26):

I couldn’t disagree more with Eswar Prasad’s views regarding the inevitable obsolescence of cash.

When power fails and towers topple (as in floods, fires, hurricanes and their aftermath), cash is king (“small bills, please”).

Mr. Prasad describes cash as being vulnerable to loss or theft. That is small change compared with what we’re seeing with digital currencies and credit card transactions.

He describes these transactions as only “relatively secure,” and while he acknowledges that electronic hacking “does pose a risk,” to say that it can be managed through more technology is a circular loop back to what makes digital transactions risky.

Bring on digital currency if you must. But leave cash in place for those of us who sensibly understand its place.

Kate Thurston Tardif
Naples, Fla.

To the Editor:

Eswar Prasad’s essay begins, “When was the last time you made a payment with dollar bills?”

The answer for me is about half an hour ago, when I bought The New York Times: $3 plus a dime, a penny and two nickels — the correct change for The Times and tax.

One morning I gave the clerk brand-new dollar bills that were stuck together, and I left the store. It was still dark. As I was about to get into my car, the clerk ran outside, calling to me, “You gave an extra dollar!”

How is digital currency going to show that kind of honesty, and from someone who may be living paycheck to paycheck?

Allen Berger
Savannah, Ga.

I Hear the Birds, Singing to Me

To the Editor:

Re “Name That Songbird in One Click,” by Margaret Renkl (Opinion guest essay, July 27):

The benefit of living alone as a near-nonagenarian is time for bird-watching. Thank you for reminding me of the songbird app. I look forward to knowing the identity of the avians cheering me on.

Joan May Maher
Hudson, Ohio

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