Radio's Effect on Children

Five experts offered their views on radio's influence over children, in a feature story taken from the transcript of a recent broadcast on WOR and the Mutual Broadcasting System. The arguments are familiar. The same opinions have been rehashed over the decades about the effects of television, movies and video games, although some of the specific psychobabble in the 1946 article is archaic.

Miss Josette Frank, a radio consultant for the Child Study Association of America and a leading authority on children's literature, said that radio offered children a valuable escape from "the humdrum of everyday living" and from the "parental voice, everlastingly urging them onward from one routine to another." Listening to radio was not a waste of time, in her opinion, and it was futile to expect that children's tastes would conform to our preferences.

Raphael Hayes, radio script writer, agreed that the "lurid pulp world of radio melodrama" allowed children to pursue the life of an outlaw for 15 or 30 minutes. but he felt the world these programs offered was a fraud and that children would be better served by being educated to "the world they are born into." Ironically he largely wrote mystery, suspense and crime dramas, at least in the early years of television.

William F. Soskin, psychologist, Habit Clinic For Child Guidance, Boston, was a critic of these programs but did not think they were the cause of delinquency or severe emotional disturbance. He believed they were harmful because they "over-stimulated" the young listener. Over-stimulation was a psychological concept that had been hanging around for a long time and was something felt to be bad for children, women and other tender things. Soskin stressed the importance of parental responsibility to teach youngsters to be discriminating listeners

Dr. Harcourt Peppard, Acting Director, Bureau of Child Guidance, New York City Board of Education.was convinced that radio programs did not produce neurosis or behavior problems or juvenile delinquency. Miscreants sometimes did cite radio programs, movies or comic books as the source of their misbehavior but he believed this was a protective device. While crime shows might have an effect of a few disturbed individuals with a strong existing propensity for anti-social behavior, for most kids it was a vicarious way to work through any anti-social thoughts or tendencies they might have rather than an impetus to action.

Judge Jacob Panken, New York City Childrens Court, felt that radio melodramas "disturb and excite and the result is maladjustment." Panken was active in the Socialist Party. apparently of its paternalistic wing.