Give Me a (Screen) Break

By: Koa Halpern, Fast Food Free

Hi, I’m Koa Halpern. I am 15 years old, and I started my own nonprofit when I was 10. My nonprofit is called Fast Food Free, and its goal is to get people to eat less fast food through education and community awareness, which results in healthier people and a better world.

In the United States, kids spend tons of time watching television; many kids watch TV over 4 hours every day. Much of this time is spent watching commercials. Fast food products are mainly advertised through TV. Food products and fast food commercials are shown more than any other type of advertisement. If kids reduce the time they are watching tv, they see less commercials. Less commercials leads to a reduction in fast food, resulting in healthier kids. 

Additionally, fast food poses huge problems for the environment. It takes 55 square feet of rainforest to make a single McDonald’s Quarter Pounder. 80% of the ammonia released into the air comes from animal digestion and waste. Every second, the equivalent of a football field of rainforest is destroyed to make room for the 17 billion livestock that are populating our planet. This harms the planet, so Fast Food Free is encouraging you to go Screen-Free and Fast Food Free for a week.

Spring: it’s the time when the weather takes a break from winter and when students get a break from school. It’s the perfect time for you to take a break from that TV and computer that have been keeping you hypnotized for the past few months. Although TV shows and computer games can be entertaining, students are bombarded with a lot of arguably worthless content: things that make us laugh or shudder, but aren’t useful in improving our knowledge or preparing us to be good citizens. On the contrary, we are regularly being exposed to sex, violence, inappropriate language, and reality shows that are mostly an escape from reality.

For many families, TV has become a part of the family, with 66 percent of Americans watching TV during meals. Instead of dinner being a “check in” time to see how everyone is doing and what is taking place, we focus on someone else’s lives and neglect our own well-being. TV (and computer as well!) can convince us that our lives are boring, while the lives of others, those on the screen, are adventurous and exciting. “Oh, if we could only be like them! Pass the sugar please.”

Constant exposure to the computer and TV does more than just make us zombies; it makes us consumers, too. A study in TV Week reported that 33 percent of television viewers want to purchase something they saw on TV, with 26 percent following through on that purchase.  TV viewers are the “target” audience for fast food companies, the latest fashions, the fastest cars, and “beauty” products intended to make younger people look more mature, and older people look younger. Yes, Give Me A Break. Give us all a break.

For one week, April 29 to May 5th, how about going outside to enjoy spring instead of watching TV and playing video games? Hike, ride, walk, climb, run. How about having a meaningful family discussion during dinner? How about taking up a new hobby, or revisiting an existing one that’s been put on the shelf? The possibilities are endless. Who knows, you may find that as your brain clears and the fog lifts, your newly discovered reality, the real reality, is better than any show out there.

Koa Halpern is a 15-year-old blogger, activist and founder of Fast Food Free.

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