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Think of the Children!

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"What will Mr. Banks say! He's gonna be cross enough as it is to come home and find the children missing! I beseech you, please reconsider! Think of the CHILDREN!"
Mrs. Banks, Mary Poppins

Moral Guardians (or a more loony Friend to All Children) using an argument to create a moral panic — doing something will somehow, indirectly, hurt children. Somehow. You don't have to make a rational argument as long as you can appeal to Mama Bears, Papa Wolves, Beloved Smothers, and Knight Templar Parents 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 (or would that be Chewbacca Prosecution?). In comedies, this type of character usually actually doesn't even care about the children at all, and in the worst-case scenario, is actually the one who's actively 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, or even if protecting children is the main purpose of it rather than a dubious spin to rally people's support in an election year. The fact that kids are far more likely to be victimized by someone already in their lives is conveniently glossed over.

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 be Eeevilll!

All Gays Are Pedophiles is when this trope is used to condemn homosexuality. For justified examples, see Harmful to Minors and What Do You Mean, It's for Kids?


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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 centered 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 neighborhood.
    "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!'"
  • Strongly averted with George Carlin:
    "You know what I say? Fuck the children...and remember this is Mr. Conductor talking. I know what I'm talking about."

    Comic Books 

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Parodied with a fourth wall lean in Looney Tunes: Back in Action when Daffy realizes that he's gonna die in the middle of a desert and never find the Blue Monkey Diamond.
    Daffy: I can't die now. Think of the millions of children who want me to have the diamond! (sobs) Those poor children!
  • The Condemned
    • It actually has a character argue that the media should be censored so that nothing which would not be appropriate for children could be shown. No, really. And the movie's on her side.
    • There's a scene where a reporter interviews Breckett about this mentality when it comes to his entertainment productions. Beckett outright defies the mentality by insisting that he will produce whatever the hell he wants to produce and if parents actually want to prevent their kids from seeing it, then they must put an effort in policing what the kids watch and purchase on pay-per-view rather than whine about it. And then he gets up and starts production of the titular event.
  • Elysium: "Do you have children, President Patel?". This is Delacourt's response to President Patel chewing her out for killing dozens of people trying to enter Elysium. This is also her rationale for trying to take over Elysium.
  • Dirty Rotten Scoundrels: One of the characters is a con artist pretending to be a prince in exile from a war-torn country. At the start of the film, a wealthy woman offers him her pearls to help pay for his independence campaign. He refuses at first, claiming the people of his country are too proud to accept charity, then "caves" when she tells him to consider the children.
  • The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies the toady of the Master, grabs a child to try to invoke this, after the town is destroyed by Smaug. Instead, the crowd wants to lynch him.
  • A mild example in the original Miracle on 34th Street; when Doris Walker fires the Macy's Parade Santa Claus for being drunk on the job, she asks Kris Kringle if he can fill in. Initially, he refuses but after a few seconds thought decides to accept the job, saying, "The children mustn't be disappointed."
  • The Times of Harvey Milk: This documentary recounts among other things the fight against the Briggs Initiative, a 1978 effort in California to ban homosexuals from jobs as public schoolteachers. As one of Harvey's friends points out in an interview, it was cleverly designed to play on nebulous fears of child molesters attacking schoolchildren, in order to deprive gays of their civil rights.
  • No: A pro-Pinochet "Yes" commercial says that "in the country of the No" there's no respect for possessions; this is demonstrated by a steamroller crushing things like TV sets and electric lamps. The voiceover says "Think about what you value most. Think of your loved ones," as the steamroller bears down on a little girl holding a teddy bear.
  • Jonestown. When Jim Jones calls on his followers to commit mass suicide, he claims that their children will be tortured in concentration camps by the enemies now coming for them. One of his followers makes a futile attempt to object.
    Christine Miller: I look at all the babies and I think they deserve to live.
    Jim Jones: I agree, but what's more they deserve peace.
  • Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation: Mocked by the cynical, disgraced Captain Dax when one of his superiors berates him for having refused to follow illegal orders. According to him, cowards hide behind one of two things: orders and children.
  • Master and Commander. Captain Aubrey gives a tongue-in-cheek version while rousing his crew to greater efforts during gunnery drill.
    Aubrey: '"You want to see a guillotine in Piccadilly?!" "NO!" "You want to call that raggedy-ass Napoleon your king!?" "NO!" "You want your children to sing La Marseillaise!?" "NO!" "Mr. Mowett, Mr. Pullings, STARBOARD BATTERY!" [crew cheers]
  • Professor Marston and the Wonder Women: What Josette Frank keeps bringing up as Marston explains his philosophy, and what the Moral Guardians bring up to justify censoring his works.

  • 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 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!
  • 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.
  • A common refrain of reviewer Angie, when faced by appalling behavior exhibited by local dogs in web serial Barkwire.
  • The Long Watch by Robert A. Heinlein. The commander of a nuclear missile base on the Moon urges his Bomb Officer to "think of your family" when recruiting him for a Military Coup. The man does think of his family, and as he doesn't want his little girl to grow up in a military dictatorship, proceeds to disarm the nukes to foil the coup.
  • Guardian Cats and the Lost Books of Alexandria: Over sixteen centuries ago, mass book burnings spread through Alexandria. One of the most common pieces of propaganda was that books were harmful to children. They brainwash kids and make them think they're smarter than their parents.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • In this A Bit of Fry and Laurie sketch, Laurie's character complains about a "disgusting" program, wondering "what if my children had been watching ?" (It turns out her children haven't watched it, but only because by the "purest good fortune [...] they don't happen to have been born yet.")
  • Used depressingly straight in Queer As Folk, where the parents of Nathan and Stuart attempted to silence their coming out through this:
    "He's eight years old. Ben is eight years old!"
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
    • In "Tribunal", the Cardassian attorney, Kovat, urges Odo to help O'Brien confess to a crime he never committed because, "Think of the children, Sir. Allow them to see a glimmer of enlightenment."
    • This is pretty much an ongoing theme with the Cardassians; unfortunately the first time we see it used is when a Cardassian torturer brings his daughter to watch Captain Picard being tortured (in the TNG episode "Chain of Command"). He explains how the humans are inferior because "they don't love their children as we do." The two of them end up arguing over this trope, before the Cardassian gets irritated and starts torturing Picard again.
    • Quark abused this trope once to goad O'Brien and Bashir to laying a game of racket ball by donating half the betting money to an orphanage.
    • Also when Quark runs an auction to benefit the Bajoran War Orphans Fund in "In the Cards", minus a modest commission. Think of those poor orphans.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise. T'Pol's mother isn't happy about her daughter's Interspecies Romance with Trip Tucker.
    T'Les: Do you really believe that a human and a Vulcan can have a future together? Imagine the shame your children would endure, assuming that the two of you could have children."
  • iCarly:
    • The girls ask the webshow audience for their coconut cream pie recipes, ending it with this line.
    • Carly and Sam's beauty pageant Q&A strategy is "ending world hunger... for the children!"
  • In-universe example in Scrubs. Dr. Cox said this word-for-word to Turk in the episode "My Student" when he drops his pants.
    Dr. Cox: No. No. No. You put that away. Oh! Think of the children!
  • Played completely straight in the last episode of the first season of Xena: Warrior Princess in which a guest-starring Ephiny cries out: "somebody has to think of the children!"
  • During a mid 90's storyline on All My Children about a high school teacher revealing that he was gay, numerous parents were up in arms and wanting to withdraw their students from his class.
  • This excuse occasionally appears in the court show Caso Cerrado. For example, one case involves a guy taking a woman to court because she's raising her child with a husband and a girlfriend. His excuse for wanting to kick the family out of the apartment complex is that they're confusing others' children and traumatizing their son.

  • Lampooned, somewhat unexpectedly, in political satirist Roy Zimmerman's song Patriot Act
    I've been saying "shit" too much
    I gotta stop saying "shit" so much
    'Cause there might be children
    Who don't want their parents to hear
    The word "shit" so much
  • Mocked in Dan Bull's "The Porn Minister", with regards to proposed regulations to try and censor the web.
    Think of the children, think of the children! A free and open internet's probably gonna kill them!
  • In Matt Fishel's Radio Friendly Pop Song the singer literally uses the lines "Are you thinking about the children/ Think about the children" kind of sarcastically imitating homophobic prejudices that children shouldn't be confronted with homosexuality. (This is at least part of the reason for the sarcastic song title since the song brings up homophobia as an issue for gay artists as musicians are told that they can only be successful if their songs are very heterosexual.) However, the line is resolved shortly afterward with the reply "Are you never gonna get it?/ The kids already know!"
  • Eminem has often been a target of such criticism. He's been vocal in his belief that behavioral issues in kids are caused by bad parenting, not his music, and has addressed the criticism in some of his songs:
    • Who Knew:
      Get aware, wake up, get a sense of humor
      Quit tryin' to censor music, this is for your kid's amusement
      But don't blame me when little Eric jumps off of the terrace
      You shoulda been watchin' him; apparently, you ain't parents
    • Sing For the Moment:
      That's why these prosecutors wanna convict me
      Strictly just to get me off of these streets quickly
      But all their kids be listenin' to me religiously
      So I'm signing CD's while police fingerprint me
      They're for the judges daughter, but his grudge is against me
      If I'm such a fuckin' menace, this shit doesn't make sense, B
      It's all political, if my music is literal
      And I'm a criminal, how the fuck can I raise a little girl?
    • The Way I Am:
      When a dude's gettin' bullied and shoots up his school
      And they blame it on Marilyn [Manson] or the heroin,
      Where were the parents at? And look where it's at!
      Middle America, now it's a tragedy
      Now it's so sad to see, an upper-class city
      Havin' this happenin' then attack
      Eminem 'cause I rap this way

    Professional Wrestling 
  • The reason why Shane Douglas hates Ric Flair so much: his total disrespect for women and drunken antics in front of children.
  • The Right to Censor was the WWF'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 (whose original gimmick was of a wrestling porn star) 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 then-wife) for trying to get naked on TV. 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. Notably, because WWF was making the requested changes while mocking them at the same time, the Right to Censor had a surprisingly good win/loss ratio (their victories were what spurred said changes).
  • On the 8/30/2007 TNA Impact, Karen Angle, trying to find a Tag Team partner for her husband, tried to get Sting to go for it by saying they had the same values and talking about everything they could do for children with the influence that comes from being champions. Sting did become Angle's partner, but not because of Karen's sales pitch.
  • 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.
  • During the Twisted Sisterz' (Holidead and Thunder Rosa) NWA Western States Tag Team Titles defense against Mariachi Loco and Lil' Cholo at Sabotage Wrestling's October 7, 2016 show, Cholo had Thunder Rosa in a Pendulum Swing with the intention of having her face go into Mariachi Loco's crotch, with Thunder shaking her head "no", and the commentator saying the same thing, until Mariachi simply stomped on Thunder Rosa's head. Then Holidead ran in, saying, "This is a family show, you pervert!"
  • Big Swole showed disdain for La Rosa Negra's entrance at Mission Pro Wrestling's Hell Hath No Fury event, citing the children in the audience.

  • 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 ("Ya Got Trouble") 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.
  • The Children's Hour is built around this. Mary's grandmother takes her out of her boarding school due to accusations that the two female teachers are having an affair. Due to her influential nature in the community, within weeks all of the other students' parents remove them from their school too. One of the scenes of the play and its second adaptation has Martha getting into an argument with Mrs. Tilford, who uses this excuse.
    Martha: This is our lives you're playing with. Our lives! That's very serious business for us. Can you understand that?
    Mrs. Tilford: Yes, I can understand that. And I can understand a great deal more. You've been playing with a lot of children's lives. That's why I need to stop you!

    Video Games 
  • Think Of the Children! name drops the trope, but it's actually an action game where players take on the roles of parents who must do their chores while preventing their kids from killing themselves.
  • In Assassin's Creed Origins, while convincing Bayek to take a sidequest, the minor character Mouse spews a load of rapid-fire arguments for it, which includes a completely nonsensical Think Of The Children. Bayek's response: "I would not want the children on my conscience."
  • In Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening, one sidequest entitled "Keep Out of Reach of Children" has you running around Amaranthine collecting bottles of Antivan poison on behalf of the local Merchant's Guild. The quest seems to be a Stealth Parody of this trope; the quest description mentions that the guild is concerned about the poison falling into the hands of children, though the guild is more than likely responsible for bringing the bottles into Amaranthine in the first place.
  • In Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory, and its remake Re;Birth 3, this is the sole motivation of Agnes, one of the Seven Sages and a parody of the kind of Moral Guardians that espouse this trope. On at least one occasion she talks the other Seven Sages out of committing certain acts - such as inciting all-out war between the CPUs in the hope that they all destroy each other - because of the impact it would have on the nations' children.
  • Not a straight example, but the very first chapter of Hero's Realm is called "Won't Somebody Please Think Of The Children?" It does, however, involve some dubious acts like crossing border lines and promising to free prisoners to kill someone on grounds of kidnapping.
  • In [PROTOTYPE 2] the New Templar scientists will try to use this excuse to get you to spare them. This moment is very definitely Black Comedy, since, having been tricked into an extremely self-satisfied Smug Snake Motive Rant that enrages the Person of Mass Destruction protagonist so much that he actually refuses to pollute himself by consuming them, their excuse is a hilariously pathetic example of Blatant Lies.
  • Played for laughs in Escape from Monkey Island, where Guybrush tries to use the "What about the children?" to Ozzie Mandrill and his plan to make the Tri-Island County a tourist attraction, Ozzie simply responds "What about them?", to which Guybrush admits that he hasn't thought that far.
  • In Fallout: New Vegas, the Courier can say this (and fail) in an attempt to convince Jack to start making "helpful chems" such as Stimpaks.
  • In Poker Night 2, Max uses this line when Sam goes all in. Sam asks, "What children?" which Max can't come up with an answer to.


    Web Original 
  • JewWario cries "won't somebody think of the children?!" to get The Nostalgia Critic and The Cinema Snob to stop throwing Cluster F Bombs at each other in Kickassia. Everyone gives him a strange look.
  • Also, this Not Always Right example, together with much hypocrisy.
    [after her wanting to lodge a complaint after him]
    Man: "I wish to lodge a complaint against this woman. She's been following me around and trying to get a look at…well…" *gestures at his kilt*
    Me: "Ma'am, is this true?"
    (The [customer] turns bright red and starts fidgeting uncomfortably.)
    Customer: "Well, I…but…what about the children?!" *storms off*

    Western Animation 
  • An episode of Arthur, "The Scare Your Pants Off Club!", has an organization called PAWS (Parents Against Weird Stories) ban Scare Your Pants Off books from the local library. Muffy's parents founded it because Muffy had a nightmare after reading the books and they hope banning the books will save other kids. When Arthur and his friends start petitioning, Mr. Crosswire refuses to listen, saying that he's doing it for the kids' own good. It turns out at the end that the books didn't give Muffy nightmares, but eating ice cream did. In an added bonus, it's also revealed that the Scare Your Pants Off Author, E.A. Depoe was really Mr. Crosswire's old English teacher, Ms. Mcword! This ultimately causes Mr. Crosswire to end his pursuit with PAWS.
    • Ironically, the series itself seems to display this mentality at times. For example, we're shown that Arthur's parents don't let him watch PG-13 movies (even though plenty of real kids his age do) and this is portrayed as completely reasonable.
  • Futurama: The Attack of the Political Ad in "Proposition Infinity" has a mother urging viewers to think of all the horrible things that would happen to children if robosexual marriage was allowed, "then imagine we said those things, because we couldn't think of any. As a mother, those things worry me."
  • Much like Gaston, Castaway from Gargoyles asks potential Quarrymen if they worry what gargoyles will do to their children.
  • Parodied by Rainbow Dash in the episode "Bats!" of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. "Won't somepony please think of the cider?!"
  • Rigby from Regular Show makes a bizarre attempt at this in a moment of desperation.
    "Think of the children; me! I'm the children!"
  • The Simpsons:
    • Helen Lovejoy is a parody of this kind of character. When something stirs public outcry in Springfield (which is often), she plaintively screams, "Won't somebody please think of the children?!" Ironically, her own child is a kleptomaniac hellion who gets sent to boarding school — but of course, Mama Didn't Raise No Criminal. Helen ended up stopping the Running Gag, mostly because her voice actress left the show and she had to be reduced to a background character. But she still gets the occasional reference to her former catchphrase, most notably when Moe says the line while Helen is in the frame.
    • In "Brother's Little Helper", Bart gets his hands on a tank and appears to be aiming it at his school. Miss Krabappel deadpans, "No, stop, think of the children," and goes back to her cigarette. (Bart was actually aiming at an MLB satellite that was spying on the town.)
  • 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 "Good Times With Weapons" 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.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants
    • In one episode, 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".

    Real Life 
  • Real Life again: Most arguments against "violent video games". To the point that Germany and Australia arbitrarily define Video Games as children's toys. The games in question are always, invariably never marketed to children, because adults have more money.
    • According to a PEGI report the average age of people who buy games in Europe is 35 and the amount of games that are for people aged 16 to 18 is around 10%, only 1% of the total games published is suitable for 18 and over. You wouldn't know any of this if you followed the news, as a recent report about an agreement about 18+ games showed in the Netherlands: "kids as young as 11 years old could buy these games" (at a €60 price tag, which is a lot of money for an 11-year-old).
    • According to article 240a of the Dutch penal code, you cannot give harmful content to minors. This is 16+ material in video content (including porn) and 18+ with video games. You will get fined if you give this to kids, they have "mystery guests" roaming the country to see if you actually check their age. Despite this, there's still the persistent belief among parents that everyone can get an 18+ game from the store and that "something must be done".
    • The UK uses the PEGI rating for some video games (which is classed as a suggestion that is supposed to be followed) and the same legally enforced BBFC ratings used on video content for other games. Either way, selling a game to someone under the suggested or mandated age is illegal, especially if that person turns out to be working for the trading standards agency.
    • With regards to Australian attitudes, there wasn't a rating of R18+ available for video games until it was allowed in early 2013. Back then, if a game did anything that the ratings board felt was too adult, it was either cut or banned. Sometimes, these decisions made absolutely no sense. Fallout 3 was banned in Australia due to a drug being named Morphine rather than the violence.
    • And because of Australia's rather harsh policies of censorship of video games, it will affect their Kiwi neighbors. However, Video Game publishers failed to recognize NZ's Rating System because they felt that New Zealand uses the same rating system as Australia but it is not. NZ uses a traffic system for ratings (Green is for General, Yellow is for Parental Guidance or Suggested for Mature Audiences 16 and over and Red is for age-restricted. It starts from R13, then R15, R16 and finally R18).
  • The Australian Labor Party proposed a (now unlikely to see the light of day) web filter which many have criticized for reasons ranging from denial of freedom of speech (justified by the leaked blacklist) to the practical, such as it slowing it down to dial-up speeds. Everyone from Telstra to Google, to Hillary Rodham Clinton and the US ambassador speaking out against it, which have been completely ignored. The supposed aim of the filter was to protect the children from accessing pornography and stifling child porn online. However, the Coalition has followed the Greens in agreeing to not to vote in favor of the Internet Censorship bill when it appears in parliament, thus denying the Bill the majority it needs to pass through government. It is now virtually impossible for the filter to be implemented.
  • After Spain's football team lost to Argentina in a friendly shortly after Spain had won the World Cup, one Spanish politician came over all Helen Lovejoy:
    How can we explain this to our children, still kitted out in red? How can I explain to my daughter that it was only a friendly? How can I explain to her that Casillas wasn't playing? Why did you do this to our children? note 
  • Comedian Nick Adams mentions in his book how when he, a black man, married a Native American woman, opponents of interracial marriage invoked this trope as a sort of thinly-veiled racism.
  • This trope combines with But Not Too Gay when conservative-minded parents went batshit about an episode of Glee where Kurt and Blaine had a very passionate kissing scene (in actuality the kiss only lasted a couple seconds and was almost completely closed lipped). The loudest complaints were that it was "inappropriate for children." Never mind that the scene was both well-written and completely in character, or that there are far worse things to worry about in Glee than a make-out scene — apparently this is worth all of their vitriol because it's between two guys rather than one girl and one guy. When sensible people ask why someone would let children watch a TV-14 rated show involving underage sex, teen pregnancy, drug use, and rampant discrimination, the parents usually fall back on "It's a musical show about high-school!"
  • The Communications Decency Act was a federal law passed in the United States notable as the first attempt by the U.S. government to censor the Internet. Its primary effect was to essentially limit all speech on the Net to a level of discourse suitable for children, and pretty much only children, on the justification that children could read material on the Net. It and a somewhat less draconian successor law passed in 1998 were overturned as unconstitutional; a third, much more limited, attempt (the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) of 2000, which only required that elementary schools and librairies on the E-Rate discount filter content deemed obscene, child pornography or harmful to minors) managed to stick.
  • Another U.S. attempt at policing the Internet "for the children" was the Protecting Children from Internet Pornographers Act of 2011, which would have forced ISPs to track the personal info of all their customers and all their Internet usage over the last 18 months, with said info being obtainable on suspicion of any crime, not just child porn ones, albeit only with a warrant and reasonable suspicion. Thankfully, following the predictable shitstorm, the bill died in Congress, and while parts of it were later included in the Child Protection Act of 2012, the ISP tracking requirement was not.
  • US politics has fun with this:
    • In the 1980s, Mothers Against Drunk Driving did a successful "think of the children" push against drunk driving and against drinking and purchasing alcohol by people under 21. It was so successful that it rarely comes up anymore: The mandated-for-highway-funding bans on drinking under 21 are now over 21 years old.
    • Many cities have passed laws to ban smoking in public places and businesses. Second-hand smoke was a spearhead in that campaign, and children breathing it were often cited in the early arguments (usually with the justification that they're more vulnerable to the toxins than adults subjected to passive smoking).
    • Fast food companies and other "junk food" distributors have been facing increasing criticism for advertising products toward children. Some groups and individuals advocate banning "Happy Meals" and similar food combos to "protect the children." True, parents are usually the ones buying that food; but fast food places will allow children to buy food if they can pay for it, and McDonalds has provided food for school breakfasts. Vending machines on school grounds are special targets of frustration since children choose to buy junk food and soda from them.
    • The 'Sandy Hook' school shooting was arguably the most famous incident of the mass murder of children with firearms in the USA in 2012. It made the USA's policy on armaments a full-on Flame War again, with everyone turning the event into a "for the children" argument. More specifically those wanting stricter gun control blamed USA's uniquely easy access to so-called "military-grade weapons" for its uniquely bloody culture of suicides and massacres with firearms. At the same time, gun-enthusiasts blamed trends in news and mass media for "raising a generation of serial killers". Others argued that something as precious as children should have more posted security or ways to defend itself.
  • This was one of the main justifications for the adoption of The Hays Code by the American motion picture industry in 1930. Will Hays, the primary enforcer of the Code, explained in a public statement that the censorship board's goal was to protect the innocence of "the mind of a child"... as if children, or families with children, were the only sort of people who ever went to the movies.
  • This was followed in ca. 1945-1955 by an anti-comic book crusade in several Western countries which led to the passing of child-protection laws e. g. in Britain, France and West Germany, and to the setting up of a self-censorship body, the Comics Code Authority, in the United States. Here too the protection of children was invoked, as embodied e. g. by the scaremongering title of Fredric Wertham's (in)famous book Seduction of the Innocent, although the anti-comic-book forces - which ranged across the socio-political spectrum of the countries concerned - were far from unanimous as to what children had to be protected from. Some focused on depictions of violence, others on sexual or homosexual content, others on the dangers to children's literacy.
  • This is the reason you don't see comic books at Walmart anymore in the U.S.: certain parents kept throwing a tantrum because they were selling titles like Spawn. Averted in Mexico and probably elsewhere.
  • This was the public reason why Socrates was executed: his teachings had "corrupted the youth." In actuality, it was more likely because he was on the bad side of a lot of people because he'd called them on their various shortcomings. A couple of his students had been members of the Thirty Tyrants, a dictatorship the Spartans installed in Athens after beating then in war. They conducted a bloody purge of Athenians who defied them before being overthrown, with Socrates it seems being a scapegoat as they blamed him for supposedly inspiring his students' acts. Socrates had asserted (without refutation) that he refused to cooperated with the purge at all (recounted in the Apology), so historians generally see this as guild by association (possibly inspired by people who found him dangerous as a result of his questioning the authorities).
  • Anita Bryant's campaign against gay rights laws in Florida was literally known as "Save Our Children."
  • One of the primary arguments towards climate change legislation is that we'd be leaving a better world for our children. As John Oliver pointed out, the fact that there is so much resistance to said legislation means our response to "think of the children" in this case amounts to "eh, fuck 'em".
  • Stepping into the Wayback Machine to 1992, we have the uproar caused by True Crime trading cards, published by Eclipse Enterprises. Specifically, the Vol. 2 set, "Serial Killers and Mass Murderers" (which featured the faces of John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer, Charles Manson, etc., all adorned with a splash of blood) generated the most controversy. One lawmaker claimed the cards were being sold to children at Toys 'R' Us (they weren't), another called for the wholly unrealistic ban on all "material depicting criminals." In New York, New Jersey and Maryland, bills were introduced that would ban sales of the cards to minors, and levy monstrous fines (and in some cases jail terms) against anyone who did so (in all those cases, the bills were defeated). Nassau County, NY, actually passed such a law, which was struck down three years later. As is only logical, all the controversy caused sales of the cards to go through the roof.
  • This is one of the ways Jim Jones got his followers to drink the poisoned Flavor Aid. He claimed that the U.S. military (or possibly the CIA) was going to storm Jonestown. He then goaded his followers into choosing suicide over confrontation or surrender by saying that while they were willing to rot in prison or concentration camps (which he claimed all minorities had been herded into back in the United States), were they willing to let something happen to their children? Ironically he ended up using this argument to actually hurt children by invoking Better to Die than Be Killed.
  • The documentary In Whose Honor?, arguing against sports teams' use of Native American mascots relies heavily on this trope. The beginning of the documentary focuses on a Spokane woman's description of her young children's reactions to a Fighting Illini game she took them to.
  • The "bathroom bills" that several US states have been enacting, that would require people to use restrooms and locker rooms that match their birth sex, are ostensibly done in the name of protecting women and children from sexual predators claiming to be transgender. This despite the fact that trans people have been using the bathrooms that match their gender presentations since there have been sex-segregated restrooms and there has never been a case of someone claiming to be trans in order to enter an opposite-sex restroom for the purpose of assaulting someone. It has since been extended into the "reasoning" behind various bills proposed or passed against gender-affirming medical care for trans children, sometimes banning it on pain of prison for doctors who perform it. Tons of misinformation is included of course, such as claims that trans children would get gender-affirming surgery before age 18 (false) etc. It has also seen many trans children barred from sports teams that match their gender, sometimes to be enforced with genital exams or even chromosome testing. Very clearly only some children matter in this case, since that's clearly a traumatic thing to subject them with.
  • When the trailer for Silent Night, Deadly Night was first screened, many parents believed a film about a serial killer dressed as Santa would scar children and protested in hopes it would be pulled from theaters.
  • The infamous Livejournal purge known as "Strikethrough '07." In the mid 2000's, LJ went from being an independent blog site to being sold to an up-and-coming software company known as Six Apart. Six Apart was approached by a group of (largely Christian) Moral Guardians and Media Watchdogs calling itself "Warriors for Innocence." Warriors for Innocence used this kind of plea to persuade Six Apart to start policing the content of journals and communities, and to remove objectionable content.note  Six Apart bowed to pressure from them, and began using algorithms to look for certain buzzwords and began purging accounts with no warning. Not only did this affect things that were actually Harmful to Minors, but other types of content, too. Including, but not limited to, fan communities with a focus on Slash Fic and Yaoi fanworks (even perfectly G-rated ones), at least one online support group for survivors of childhood sexual abuse, an online support group for nursing mothers, blogs containing information about sexual health and birth control, cosplay and fashion blogs, and many more. And although many of those accounts removed in error were eventually restored, this wasn't an isolated incident, and many users lost faith in the website and left for greener pastures.



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Main / ThinkOfTheChildren

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