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Protecting Children from Speech

87 Pages Posted: 20 Apr 2010  

Alan E. Garfield

Widener University - Delaware Law School

Date Written: 2005


Public concern about minor access to inappropriate speech (violent, sexual, vice advertising) has led to an onslaught of regulatory responses in recent years. Courts have wrestled with the constitutionality of these regulations but their decisions have provided little clarity as to what legislators may or may not do.

In this Article, I guide legislators and judges through the thicket of child-protection censorship. I cut through the mass of precedent, empirical studies, and scholarship to distill the child-protection/free speech conflict into a series of comprehensible questions. By identifying the key questions underlying the conflict, I draw attention to the core constitutional and policy choices at stake whenever speech is suppressed to protect children. My hope is that this conceptual roadmap will change the tenor of the child-protection censorship debate which too often is phrased in extreme terms: either that government censorship is never to be permitted or that courts should always defer to the censorship decisions of regulators.

Keywords: free speech, censorship, children, constitutional law

JEL Classification: K1, K10

Suggested Citation

Garfield, Alan E., Protecting Children from Speech (2005). Florida Law Review, Vol. 57, 2005. Available at SSRN:

Alan E. Garfield (Contact Author)

Widener University - Delaware Law School ( email )

4601 Concord Pike
Wilmington, DE 19803-0406
United States


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