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
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;
or call 412-350-2770.
For more on the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood,
visit click here.
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