Libraries, Parents and the Protection of Children

"Fear Paradigms in the Electronic Age: How Focusing on Privacy Rights from Government Intrusion Overlooks the Best Interests of the Child" by Elizabeth Kowal, Regent Law J.D. 2012 discusses California's new privacy laws that prohibit parents from monitoring their children's library reading material. She writes,

"In this time of Facebook, Twitter, and e-books, privacy is a popular, frequently discussed issue. In January of 2012, two new privacy laws were enacted in California. Both laws address privacy in the electronic age, and responses to both show that Californians are appraising these new laws from positions of fear of the government. Unfortunately, the narrow focus of a fear paradigm makes it difficult to realize when there may be other important issues implied in new laws. Although California’s new laws address privacy in the electronic age, they may be harming families. This article examines whether California ignores the best interests of the child and creates liability without authority under the new privacy rules for libraries."

Library privacy policies are good and important; but how those law and policies work together to harm or protect children and their protection is explored in the first section of the article. Section II examines reactions to the new privacy laws and explains the narrow viewpoint of fear paradigms. Section III illuminates and contrasts the interplay of family privacy and children’s rights. Section IV analyzes the new privacy standards under the best interests of the child standard and suggests solutions to these concerns.

Analyzing the fear paradigms in which privacy laws are established is an important task. A narrow focus on individual rights violates the best interests of the child when parents are prohibited from protecting their own children. Parental liability without legal authority does not work toward family restoration, but rather preys on vulnerable children without their parents' protection.

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