South University Online: American Government
April 23, 2013
The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution spells out in no uncertain terms, the role of government concerning dissemination of information, and freedom of expression through all mediums written or spoken. It also ensures the right of the people to public assembly to redress governmental policies, which infringe on the rights of citizens of the United States to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Only in matters, pertaining to national security is information allowed to be withheld from the public. The federal government is expressly prohibited from making into law any policy that prohibits personal expression of ideas or religious practice so long as it is does not seek to deliberately incite violent behavior.
This applies to all forms of communication oral and written whether that is pen and ink, which was the standard when the Constitution was drafted, or the more modern medium of the personal computer. While it is certainly easier than ever to disseminate information to the public, it is still the right of the individual to determine what he will or will not view, read, or hear. As a member of a free society, it is my right, privilege and duty to determine for myself and my child what is and is not acceptable. This is to be done through personal ethical filters and applies only to my child and myself. This issue is at the heart of the debate regarding placing restrictions on access to information available in situations where minors may inappropriately view it.
Per Socrates, the only good is knowledge and the only evil ignorance (Socrates, 2013). Censorship as public policy, even to protect my child is inherently evil. It is my job to filter the information that she is exposed to as best I am able. I am well aware however that for the time that she is not under my auspices, others who may have different standards from my own may not be so vigilant. To this end, I am constantly teaching her to think critically about what is happening in her world. For now, I have instilled in her the “would my mother approve” review. If the answer is no regarding a planned activity, then it is my hope that she will choose not to participate. That being said, the fact that is, frequent changes to the passwords to all my personal electronic devices speaks volumes regarding the fact that with the proper motivation, there is no way to really restrict access to information. My child has the ability to circumnavigate the security measures I have in place and has done so repeatedly. I am sure that other children are just as adept. As a parent and staunch supporter of the 1st Amendment, the best thing I can do is educate my child to the fact that predators exist, teach her how to counter them, and listen to what she says. The best way to ensure my child’s safety is active participation in her life.
In 1982, Pico vs. The Board of Education, the Supreme Court ruled that it was illegal to remove books from the shelves of school libraries because they disagreed with the content of those books as this was a violation of the 1st Amendment ( (Hudson Jr, 2003). Far from stopping minors from viewing information that they may not yet have the maturity to deal with public policy that places controls on what information is available makes that which is forbidden even more alluring. By directly addressing the issues of predatory behavior, pornography, obscenity and the responsible use of the civil liberties granted citizen of the United States, parents become defenders of the First Amendment. It is far more useful to teach appropriate expression of dissenting points of view then it is to disallow dissemination of information in a vain attempt to use public policy in place of good parenting.
The interpretation of the First Amendment is the province of