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Children's Rights

Lesser Rights

While children have greater rights than adults concerning their basic needs, children have less rights than adults in certain other circumstances like school classrooms and at school events. Free speech and expression are limited if they are at odds with a school's educational mission, which includes courtesy, tolerance, and respect for others.

Former Massachusetts governor Paul Cellucci displays one of the state's "Ten Most Wanted" posters of individuals wanted for nonpayment of child support. (AP/Wide World Photos)

The courtroom is another place where juveniles have fewer rights. In juvenile court systems, unlike adults in regular courts, youths do not have the right to bail nor a jury trial. In addition, courts usually side with parents or guardians rather than children in determining what is in a child's best interest.

Children also do not have the right to file a lawsuit in court. There was some pressure in the 1990s to increase the legal standing of minors. On one occasion, a twelve-year-old boy took action in the state courts of Florida to cut legal ties with his parents. He stated that they were financially unable to provide for his basic needs, and though he won the case, an appeals court reversed the ruling saying he had no legal right to file the suit in the first place. Once adults joined him in the suit, his court victory was assured.

Children's rights advocates claim minors should be allowed to file lawsuits if they show a suitable level of knowledge. Society continues to wrestle with how much say a youth should legally have in his or her future.

Another difference in the rights of children and adults involves obscene materials. States protect the young from certain kinds of books, videos, and movies. For example, some sexually explicit materials may be considered obscene for children but not for adults. The same concept is applied to television programming. Television networks established family viewing times in the evening when children are most likely to be watching.

Creating family viewing guidelines were designed to protect children from sexually explicit or violent programs. Television networks steadily drifted from these standards in the twenty-first century. Similarly, the government has made efforts to regulate explicit sites on the Internet to protect children. Congress passed the Communications Decency Act of 1996 and the Child Online Protection Act of 1998. Several courts, however, ruled the acts unconstitutional.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal LawChildren's Rights - Protection Of Children, Childcare, Child Labor, Kidnapping And Abduction, Forms Of Child Abuse