By John J. Duncan Jr.

The late Chancellor Fred McDonald told me he had lost almost 40 pounds in three months simply by stopping eating in front of the television.

He said he had figured out that every time he watched television, he seemed to want popcorn, ice cream, or some type of snack.

I am probably worse about this than he was, because I almost always want to watch television while eating a sandwich or a meal or snack.

Of course, the term “couch potato” has been around for a long time. Almost all of us would weigh less if we made up our minds to never eat while watching television.

It is a very common thing for people to say that they really don’t watch much television.

But many years ago, I read about a study in which people were asked to estimate how much television they watched each week.

Then the participants were given a machine to put on their televisions. The end result was that they found that people watched on average four times more than they had estimated.

We have a very serious problem in this country with screen addiction.

It started with television but now has expanded to iPhones, iPads, video games, and computers of all types.

Many people have to stare at a screen at work and then do it at home too.

During my 46-year career as a lawyer, judge and congressman, I spoke probably over 2,000 times to school groups, Eagle Scout ceremonies, church and other youth groups.

For most of those years, I did not even think about screen addiction.

But over about the last 15 or 20 years, I would almost always tell the young people to try very hard to occasionally pull themselves away from those very addictive screens and go out and help out a live human being.

I told them their lives would mean more to them if they did. As someone said, “Unplug and live life.”

Today, though, it is not just young people who are addicted to the screens. I spend far too much time looking at my “smart” phone and my iPad.

My dad, who passed away in 1988, used to say, half-jokingly, half-seriously, that the problem of the country grew worse when they stopped putting front porches on the houses.

He said people used to visit with their neighbors and talk to each other more.

What I am trying to say was summed up by a report on interviews with a number of people who were 100 or above about “connecting to others.”

“Maybe they are better at it because they grew up in a world without so much distraction, when people were more likely to talk to one another – at the dinner table, around the fire at night, riding together in a sleigh, or walking to school.

“The centenarians grew up in a world with no electricity; no radio to turn to when conversations got dull or tense, no television to take the place of someone telling stories, no email to check five times a day.

“Their world was more likely to be full of the sounds of nature, a place where you could think more clearly and perhaps connect with people more readily.”