Cellphones let kids know mom and dad are there to help

Thank you for Jonathan Zimmerman's May 24 Opinion piece, "Parental anxieties in a cellular age," which reminds us that overprotective parents are standing in the way of children struggling to become the healthy, independent adults that nature intended. As a parent, my job has been made easier. All I have to do is let go, and everything will be fine. Yet I'm just not sure Mr. Zimmerman is right. I'm reluctant to draw the same lessons from previous generations that he did. Yes, there were drugs and crime when I was a kid, and I did, indeed, make it through. But here's the problem: Not everyone made it.

The real question is, "Can we help our children navigate the high-school years better by allowing them to keep in contact?" And for many, the answer will be "yes." In another time, maybe a teenager could use a pay phone to call mom or dad, but not today. It's hard to find a working pay phone, due, undoubtedly, to the prevalence of cellphones.

I agree with Zimmerman's notion that parents can be overprotective and that the supply of parental input can create kids' demand for it - to the detriment of these children. But there have always been overprotective parents. For most of us, cellphones allow us to be available to our children in case of emergency, or if they need help. But kids today, as in previous generations, know how to deal with overanxious parents. They turn on the silent mode, tune in the iPod, and drop out of cellphone reach.
Amy Ellen Schwartz
New York

Poverty is not always temporary

Regarding George Weathersby's May 22 Opinion piece, "Most of the 'poor' in the US are not poor for long": The definitions one uses to frame and discuss the issue of poverty prevalence and duration might make a big difference in one's findings. For example, a family living almost constantly below the poverty line with an occasional month here and there of higher-wage income might well have the same problems of the chronically poor - even though such families would fit Mr. Weathersby's framework of poverty as a temporary inconvenience. Counting such families as part of the 30 million to 40 million people who have "risen out of poverty" every five years for the past three decades would be misleading.

If the public is led to believe that poverty is mainly a temporary problem in America rather than a long-term or multigenerational problem, then it will be easier for the public to accept funding cuts to programs geared toward providing the poor with longer-term economic support and other assistance. Considering the relentless growth in the total number of those in poverty over the years, such reframing of our poverty paradigm would cause a potentially serious error in public-policy judgment.
The Rev. Georgette Wonders
Copresident, Congregations United to Serve Humanity
Kenosha, Wis.

Bike away from the Segway

Regarding the May 18 article, "A natural Segway...": I remain utterly confused about self-propelled scooters such as the "Segway." Of course, for those who are otherwise dependent on a wheelchair, this device sounds like a great emancipation.

But what about the remainder of users in the US, where much of the population is notably overweight and in poor physical condition? The use of one of these devices by an individual who could otherwise bike five miles, roundtrip, to and from work is about as ironic as those who drive their cars to a fitness center and then take an escalator up to the center's entrance.
Fenton Heirtzler
Edmonton, Alberta

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