Mr. Mayor, I hate to break it to you, but this town is infested by bears. Helen:
Think of the children!
(The mayor sets up a Bear Patrol, which predictably costs tax money. One week later, the complaints are back:
Down with taxes! Down with taxes! Helen:
Won't somebody please
think of the children?
using an argument to create a moral panic
— doing something will somehow, indirectly, hurt children. Somehow. Especially rape them
. You don't have to make a rational argument as long as you appeal to mama bears
, crusading parents
, and paranoid fathers
emotionally. This is a great way to rouse up an Angry Mob
, and the best/worst part is you don't even need any proof of your target's guilt or innocence; just use Logical Fallacies
to make your target out to be a monster then use "the children
" as a Chewbacca Defense
. In comedies, this type of character usually actually doesn't even care about the children at all and in the worst case scenario is even the one harming children while deflecting blame off onto others as a scapegoat.
Sadly, this is a case of Truth in Television
, as it is very easy for media and politicians to play the "it hurts kids" argument to get a law passed
, regardless of whether the law is good or effective.
The New Rock & Roll
is invariably greeted with this reaction — if it's something kids are doing that adults don't fully understand, it must
Subtrope of Appeal To Pity
. All Gays Are Pedophiles
is when this trope is used to condemn homosexuality.
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- One Compare the Meerkat advert was about how people confusing Compare The Meerkat for Compare The Market was destroying the meerkat town Meerkovo. One part centred on how it was destroying the school and the kids were no longer able to learn. If only people knew the difference between the two websites!
- Part of Canadian comedian Tim Nutt's act is a story about him telling off a woman seeking to ban street hockey in the neighbourhood.
"Yeah, I told her to get a map and check out which country
she's in! This was her argument: 'A child could get hurt!' Which
kid?! The only kid getting hurt is the one who can't work this maneuver: 'CAR!'"
- In the book Heir Apparent by Vivian Vande Velde, the plot is put into motion by a group called Citizens to Protect Our Children. According to the protagonist, they "strongly believe that only G-rated movies should be made and libraries should only stock nice, friendly, uplifting books, which means nothing supernatural or scary. Which just about kills my entire reading list". They go after the gaming company that she's going to to spend a gift certificate, under the excuse that violence and magic are inappropriate for their children. They later subvert their intended mission, because while the main character is in the game they break into the center and smash up the equipment, causing it to be susceptible to overheating which, unless the game is completed in time, will fry the girl's brain. She lives, though, and in the end the head of the company (a boy about a year older than she is) says that "they're going to get their asses fried for endangering a minor". It's a take on how hypocritical censorship groups are, going after the companies when it's their kids that are going to the places in the first place!
- In the Star Trek novel Losing the Peace, the Governor of Pacifica makes such an argument. He's apparently concerned about refugees' effects on the Selkie breeding islands, but might possibly be simply annoyed by the refugees. He insists that the delicate environmental requirements of the Selkie young risk being disrupted by the settlers, and that in the name of the children steps should be taken to remove the outsiders. Most of the refugees have nowhere else to go, and really Pacifica should be honoring its obligations to the wider Federation by accepting them. It's a complicated situation though - the governor might well have a valid point.
- An excerpt from "How I Found the Superman" by G. K. Chesterton, Daily News 1909:
The name of Lady Hypatia Smythe-Brown (now Lady Hypatia Hagg) will never be forgotten in the East End, where she did such splendid social work. Her constant cry of "Save the children!" referred to the cruel neglect of children's eyesight involved in allowing them to play with crudely painted toys. She quoted unanswerable statistics to prove that children allowed to look at violet and vermillion often suffered from failing eyesight in their extreme old age; and it was owing to her ceaseless crusade that the pestilence of the Monkey-on-the-Stick was almost swept from Hoxton.
The devoted worker would tramp the streets untiringly, taking away the toys from all the poor children, who were often moved to tears by her kindness.
- The Right to Censor was the World Wrestling Federation's response to criticism by the Parents Television Council over the WWF's storylines and threats to boycott its sponsors, over storylines that frequently included extreme violence (including against women), profanity and scantily clad women. (The PTC had pointed out that children were frequent viewers of the WWF's television programs.) Led by Steven Richards, members of his faction – including Bull Buchanan, The Goodfather (Charles Wright changing his gimmick from the "Ho"-loving Godfather), Val Venis and Ivory – frequently interrupted matches that involved aspects the PTC criticized, including Tables-Ladders-Chairs matches and matches involving scantily dressed women. In storyline terms, the group reached its peak when they began harassing The Kat (Stacy Carter, Jerry Lawler's ex-wife) after she appeared topless during a live pay-per-view event. In contrast, the Right to Censor members wore conservative uniforms: a white button up shirt and black tie, with black slacks for the men (although Val Venis wore white slacks on occasion) and a long black skirt for the women, which parodies the look of a Mormon missionary.
- Shouted by a crowd member at a WWE Raw taping in London when R-Truth smoked a cigarette in a public building after a Face-Heel Turn.
- The reason why Shane Douglas hates Ric Flair so much: his total disrespect for women and drunken antics in front of children.
- In Stan Freberg's "Elderly Man River", Mr. Tweedly insists on correcting the grammar of "Ol' Man Ribbah," saying, "The home is a classroom, Mr. Freberg... Keep in mind the tiny tots."
- The Music Man has a whole song creating a moral panic by playing on fears of the pool hall and what it'll do to their children. Billiards is okay by Harold Hill, but pool is trouble.
- Helen Lovejoy is a parody of this character on The Simpsons. Frequently, when something stirs up public outcry, in Springfield, she screams "Won't somebody please think of the children?" in a panic. Ironically, her own child is a kleptomaniac hellion who has to be sent to a boarding school for her crimes - but, of course, Mama Didn't Raise No Criminal. The show also did this a lot on the seventh season episode "Much Apu About Nothing" (where Springfield holds a referendum to get illegal immigrants deported) and the season eight episode "Homer vs. The 18th Amendment" (where alcohol gets banned in Springfield after Bart gets drunk at the St. Patrick's Day parade), but not much in the later episodes, probably because the voice actress for Helen Lovejoy (who was also the voice actress for Ned Flanders' wife, Maude) left the show and the writers pretty much put her on a bus — or kept her in the background and only bring her out in crowd scenes. Though the writers may have tired of the joke anyway; they could potentially have used recordings from a previous episode; the authors started subverting the natural pattern, an indication of an attempt to keep the joke fresh. For instance, in the episode where Homer and Marge rekindle their sex life by getting busy in public places, get cornered in the miniature golf course and flee before being seen, leaving their clothes for the crowd to find. As the crowd gasps at the idea of two people running around naked, Moe says the line while Helen is in the frame just to fool with the audience.
- In one episode, Bart got his hands on a tank and was initially making it seem as though he was going to use it on the school. Mrs. Krabappel's reaction is a deadpan "No, stop, think of the children." while smoking a cigarette. He was actually intending to fire at a MLB satellite that was spying on the town, something of which only Bart seemed to be aware.
- All of the parents of South Park. Most notably the first time (in which they abandoned their children to go protest a cartoon show in another state) and the most extreme (after first building a wall around the town to protect their children, when they find out that most children are abducted by their parents, they send their own kids away to keep them from being abducted.) Kyle's mother is by far the worst of them, starting World War III to protect her kids from movie profanity in The Movie.
- Then there's the episode where the kids get ninja weapons, and Butters accidentally gets a shuriken to the eye, but what are the parents up in arms about? Cartman being naked in public.
- In Beauty and the Beast, Gaston gets together an Angry Mob by saying that the Beast would eat the town's children.
- Much like Gaston, Castaway from Gargoyles asks potential Quarrymen if they worry what gargoyles will do to their children.
- In one episode of SpongeBob SquarePants, where the titular character suddenly goes missing, Sandy Cheeks rallies the whole town to find him (he was hiding underneath a rock, specifically Patrick's house). When they couldn't find him, Sandy gets more desperate, forcing them into hazardous, potentially deadly environments like "leech farms". One of the exhausted townsfolk invokes this trope, and Sandy says "That's a good idea!" Use the children to crawl into small places you couldn't normally reach!".
- In another episode, Patrick lets his Balloon Belly hang out in public. A disgusted fish shouts "Dude, put that away! There are children here!"
- In Taz-Mania, the primary justification used by Bull Gator and Axl for anything they do is that they are doing it "to please the zoo-going children of the world".
- Parodied by Rainbow Dash in the episode "Bats!" of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. "Won't somepony please think of the cider?!"