DHS Home Page
Department of Human Services    Follow DHS on Facebook Follow DHS on Twitter Watch DHS Videos on Vimeo Connect with DHS on LinkedIn

DHS News Header

DHS News April 2014     


Safe Start promotes Screen Free Week and other awareness campaigns impacting children

A week without accessing a screen of any kind – TV, phone, computer – seems nearly impossible in this era, but Glenna Wilson and Heather Arenth encourage giving it a try from May 5-11 during Screen Free Week. The national campaign is promoted in Allegheny County by Glenna and Heather, who are coordinator and early childhood behavior specialist, respectively, for the Department of Human Services (DHS) Safe Start program.

Based in the Office of Community Services , Safe Start uses several curricula and trainings to reach many goals, including raising awareness of the impact of violence on children, providing instruction on how parents and caregivers can protect children, and empowering children both to be safe and understand that violence is not their fault.  Among the materials used by Glenna and Heather is the American Psychological Association’s ACT: Raising Safe Kids parenting curriculum.

They also raise awareness around national events such as the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood’s “Screen Free Week.”  Heather, who compiles a Safe Kids newsletter (available on the DHS website), said she understands that completely turning off all screens is difficult. For one thing, most people nowadays need computers to do their work.

“But you can decide what you can do,” she said. “Cut back on how many hours a day you are looking at a screen, how many days you or your family members – especially young children – are playing video games. Children need to interact with other children and build social skills. Just wait until you see the joy they have when you color with them, for example. Live life and interact.”

Glenna recently sent out “The Family Guide to a Great Screen Free Week” that gives tips on how to approach the event. Planning how much you will cut back, what will substitute for screen time and reclaiming “family time” for talking and sharing are among the tips. More can be found at the official Screen Free website.

Glenna points out that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for children under age 2 and fewer than 2 hours per day for older children. Too much TV can impact children negatively by decreasing physical activity and increasing obesity; promoting sleep and attention span issues; and decreasing school achievement.

A DHS staffer who participated in Screen Free Week last year said the family substituted board games for screen time nightly, and found the event so beneficial members decided to make every Saturday “screen free”.

Glenna and Heather promote Screen Free Week and all of the other Safe Start curriculums and trainings at parenting workshops, schools, daycares – any facility that assists children – and through discussion and consultation when a violent incident in the community occurs.

They also teach children to be safe in the community, using props and catch phrases to empower children ages preschool to 4th grade. “Charlie Check First” – a stuffed, anthropomorphic checkmark – tells children how to “check first” with a parent or trusted adult before going anywhere with anyone, for example.

Heather and Glenna also discuss “The Power of No” with children, letting them know that yelling loudly is a proper response when they feel threatened by someone. “It’s giving kids skills, rather than causing fear,” Glenna said.

For more on Safe Start, visit the DHS Safe Start webpage; email; or call 412-350-2770.

For more on the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, visit click here.


DHS News Newsletter
DHS News Archive