Radio Rookies

Website review by
Polly Conway, Common Sense Media
Radio Rookies Website Poster Image
Fresh voices tackle big questions with kid-created radio.

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Educational Value

Kids can learn about a variety of teen-relevant subjects, ranging from adoption to living in America as an immigrant and cyberbullying, and will likely form opinions on the information that's presented. The personal narrative reports are in an audio format, which can benefit users who are still developing reading skills; kids can also read a short synopsis of the broadcast. Additional information is included for teachers to help students produce interviews or use the site's stories in class -- a nice resource to enhance the audio clips and make the site an even more well-rounded learning experience.


Positive Messages

Kids encouraged to explore current issues, empathize with others, learn more about world through site's varied segments.


Some stories deal with violence, like school shootings, war.


Some very straightforward sexuality-themed segments, including some that deal with teen sexuality, primarily relating to LGBT issues.


Ads run on site, though they're the kind that typically run on public radio, meaning largely educational, socially conscious. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drugs are touched on, but not glorified. An article addresses marijuana use in high school, a post discusses pressure aspiring hip-hop musicians feel to use, rap about psychedelic drugs.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Radio Rookies is a website based in New York City where kids create and air their own radio programs on current issues that are relevant to their lives. Radio Rookies doesn't shy away from hard-hitting discussions. Items feature topics like teen sexuality and losing a loved one. Some focus on controversial issues related to race, like "The N-word: It Means Hatred." But all the topics are thoughtfully covered and discussed and should be appropriate for a tween audience, regardless of dealing with topics of violence, sex, or drug use. There are some ads on the site and in the discussions, but these are the ones typically found on public radio channels.

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What's it about?

RADIO ROOKIES is a New York Public Radio initiative that trains and equips teenagers to create radio stories, giving them an outlet to share their perspectives on their life and community. Kids who sign up are given the skills to create media, and the result is this archive of articles and programs focusing on teen issues that are broadcast on a New York radio station and the site. After reading a synopsis of the story, you can click on the streaming radio to listen or, to hear it later, add the item to your queue or download an audio file.

Is it any good?

The site has a wide range of first-person content made by kids of all backgrounds. For example, a young woman discusses why she began abusing her boyfriend in one segment; in another, a school that doesn't tolerate homophobia is profiled. The site tackles topics that are particularly relevant to teens, such as poverty, gender identity, and adolescent sleep deprivation. Some broadcasts are more lighthearted, such as a report on sneaker collecting.

Although the content previously was somewhat dated, items are now posted fairly frequently -- sometimes a few new segments are added a week-- and the recordings are generally thought-provoking and entertaining. Additional resources, including a comic book on the program's history that includes radio production information and animated shorts designed to spark kids' creativity, can help listeners learn more about storytelling and working in broadcasting. Unfortunately, sometimes the navigation can be a bit more complicated than it needs to be, so kids may accidentally click away from the program's page -- and it can be a little confusing to figure out how to get back. Overall, though, the site offers compelling content that should engage and inspire younger users.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about learning about a topic by listening to a discussion about it or watching a video about it. Which storytelling method resonates more with you? Why?

  • Do you pay more attention to videos you see online, or to radio segments you hear? What seems more effective to reaching the most people?

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