The Effect of Motion Pictures

The influence of television on the impressionable young has been a subject of concern to

parents, teachers, editorial writers, and social scientists. But television is not the only

entertainment medium that may have a negative impact on children. Fifty-some years ago,

movies were the thing, and not everyone was convinced “motion pictures” were a good thing

for children.

Miss Clara Slade, Psychologist for the Lincoln Public Schools, offered these words in the 1934

Annual Report of the Nebraska Home Economics Section, now in the collections of the

Nebraska State Historical Society:

“Motion pictures have become a real factor in every American home. Recent surveys indicate

that nearly every child of school age sees about one movie a week and is exposed to that movie

for about two hours. Because of the large number of children who attend picture shows from

which they gain knowledge, both honest and dishonest, true and false, it seems fitting that some

control should be exercised over the production for children.

“That good pictures are valuable needs no defense. They are a source of information: they

reach all the children, those who can read and those who cannot; they are a great saving in time

because the information can be presented in a very short time which would take hours to read a

description of in corresponding detail.

“The problem of the pictures is–How can we secure the good and eliminate the harmful? That

pictures are harmful is just as certain as that they are good. In a study made recently it was

shown that such social attitudes as honesty, sincerity, truthfulness, respect for authority, and

self-respect are not shown as often as the undesirable attitudes such as dishonesty, insincerity,

falsehood, etc.

“In studying the solution of the problem it was found that in the majority of pictures studied,

wrong acts were either condoned or rewarded; that the love interest was shown in a majority of

pictures as an abnormal, unwholesome sex problem; that politics were being corrupted with

gangsters in control; bootleggers, murderers, and gamblers, going unpunished.”

Then as now, parental discretion was advised to mitigate these “negative influences on character


“The Effect of Motion Pictures on Character Ideals”

p 68, Annual Report of the Nebraska Home Economics Section of Organized Agriculture for

the year 1934 (Nebraska State Board of Agriculture).

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