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Are Smartphones Just a Scapegoat for Our Unhappy Children?

Hosted by Michelle Cottle, Ross Douthat, Carlos Lozada and Lydia Polgreen

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It’s not just bad vibes — America’s kids are not OK. As study after study shows worsening youth mental health, a popular theory has emerged: The rise of smartphones and the addictive nature of social media is making young people miserable. But can it really be that simple?

This week on “Matter of Opinion,” the hosts debate the myriad possible factors contributing to teenagers’ unhappiness, and discuss how parents, schools and the government can protect kids without doing further harm. Plus, a sui generis Lozada family vacation.

(A full transcript of this audio essay will be available within 24 hours of publication in the audio player above.)

Credit…Illustration by The New York Times; photograph by Moore Media/Getty Images

Recommended in this episode:

  • “The Anxious Generation,” by Jonathan Haidt

  • “Reclaiming Conversation,” by Sherry Turkle

  • “A Canticle for Leibowitz,” by Walter M. Miller Jr.

Thoughts? Email us at [email protected].

Follow our hosts on X: Michelle Cottle (@mcottle), Ross Douthat (@DouthatNYT) and Carlos Lozada (@CarlosNYT).

“Matter of Opinion” is produced by Phoebe Lett, Sophia Alvarez Boyd and Derek Arthur. It is edited by Jordana Hochman. Mixing by Pat McCusker. Original music by Isaac Jones, Efim Shapiro, Carole Sabouraud, and Pat McCusker. Our fact-checking team is Kate Sinclair, Mary Marge Locker and Michelle Harris. Audience strategy by Shannon Busta and Kristina Samulewski. Our executive producer is Annie-Rose Strasser.

Follow the New York Times Opinion section on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, WhatsApp, X and Threads.

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