Children's Developmental Vulnerability & the Roberts Court's Child-Protective Jurisprudence: An Emerging Trend?
18 Pages Posted: 2 Jan 2011
Date Written: December 31, 2010
The Roberts Court has issued three opinion to date to protect children from harmful media influences or unduly harsh criminal sentences based on their developmental instability and vulnerability. The social science data concerning children's developmental immaturity presents a compelling case for distinguishing between children and adults relative to First Amendment and Eighth Amendment issues, inter alia. Of particular interest is new MRI and fMRI studies that demonstrate that children - unlike adults - are at risk for altered brain activity arising from speech such as violent video games that can affect their beliefs and conduct long-term, and that cognitive damage can result without children's (or their parents') conscious awareness or informed consent. Is the Roberts Court embracing the social science data to usher in a new era of children's constitutional law? This essay briefly reviews the scientific data and the Court's opinions to date and suggests that the opinions may be tied together by the Court's commitment to protecting children based on the strength of the scientific evidence that they are indeed quite different than adults, warranting a different set of legal norms applicable to children.
Keywords: Children, Free Speech, Developmental, Social Science, Video Games, Morse v. Frederick, FCC v. Fox, Graham v. Florida
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