Citing the interests of children is a rationale that is sometimes given for why something should or should not be done.
It can also be seen as:
- a rationalization/justification
- a political tool 
- a rhetorical phrase (e.g. "but think of the children")
- an appeal to emotion
He claims that this is because people think children are impressionable and youth-related crime is particularly harmful and that the rhetoric has been applied to many varied political agendas, sometimes with little or no relevance.
As justification for censorship
Internet censorship and content-control software of offensive material is often justified as being done "for the children". One of the most large-scale examples was Green Dam Youth Escort, which was a failed attempt by the People's Republic of China to mandate internet content-control for all children in the country (it had numerous failures and controversies).
Usage to circumvent logical debate
It is possible to claim that something is being done "for the children" as support in a logical argument, or as a counterargument. If used in this way to avoid logical debate, it is a thought-terminating cliché. Doing something "for the children" is not per-se a logical fallacy; for example, it is perfectly reasonable to legislate "We should add traffic lights next to schools so that children do not easily get run over by cars."
- scaremongering, rationalization, rhetoric: Anita Bryant's successful 1977 Save Our Children campaign to repeal a Dade County, Florida ordinance which outlawed discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. "By focussing on the idea that gays and lesbians were somehow threatening to children, Bryant had created an incredibly powerful rhetorical focus for social conservatives. In 1981, Jerry Falwell echoed her language in a fundraising letter that reminded his followers, "Please remember, homosexuals don't reproduce! They recruit! And they are out after my children and your children."
- political foothold, justification: The Green Party's billboard campaign in the 2008 New Zealand election includes a picture of a young girl with the words "Vote for me", and a baby in a pram giving the viewer the finger, under the caption "Vote Green, or your grandchildren will be really pissed off!"
- political foothold, justification: Australian Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has billed his internet censorship scheme as being for the purpose of protecting children, despite concerns from organizations such as Save The Children, Google, Yahoo, Reporters Without Borders, and the Presidential Administration of Barack Obama.
- rhetorical usage to change topic: When asked on the NBC Today Show about Barack Obama's association with Reverend Jeremiah Wright in April 2008, Michelle Obama stated, "We gotta move forward. You know, this conversation doesn't help my kids. You know, it doesn't help kids out there who are looking for us about decisions and choices about how we're going better going to fund education."
- rhetorical usage, justification: The white power 'Fourteen Words' motto created by David Lane: "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children."
- rationalization: In 1998, after Puff Daddy won the Grammy Award for Best Rap Album, an indignant Ol' Dirty Bastard, who felt the Wu-Tang Clan deserved to win, interrupted the awards show to proclaim, "I don't know how you all see it, but when it comes to the children, Wu-Tang is for the children. We teach the children. Puffy is good, but Wu-Tang is the best."
In popular media
- The phrase "Won't somebody please think of the children?" is a running gag on The Simpsons, most often exclaimed by the minister's wife, Helen Lovejoy, whenever the town faces a problem, however minor or catastrophic.
- The viral image "Cliché Kitty" which has the tagline "Please, think of the kittens" is another comic use of this idea.
- "Michelle Obama: "We Gotta Move Forward". <a title="Time.com Home Page" href="http://www.time.com">Time.com</a>. April 30, 2009. http://thepage.time.com/2008/04/30/michelle-obama-we-gotta-move-forward/.
- Meany, John; Kate Shuster (2002). Art, argument, and advocacy: mastering parliamentary debate. IDEA. p. 65. ISBN 978-0970213075.
- Andrew Kantor (2004-07-16). "Won't someone think of the children?". USATODAY.com. http://www.usatoday.com/tech/columnist/andrewkantor/2004-07-08-kantor_x.htm. Retrieved 2008-06-13.
- "For the Children Politics". http://auntdeedee.wordpress.com/2010/05/02/for-the-children-politics/.
- "Image Gallery - Vote for Me". http://www.greens.orag.nz/node/19723?size=preview.
- "Vote Green, or your grandchildren will be really pissed off!". http://www.greens.org.nz/node/19889.
- Stephen Conroy. "Helping keep Australian children safe online". Department of Broadband, Communications & the Digital Economy. http://www.minister.dbcde.gov.au/media/media_releases/2009/062. Retrieved 2010-03-31.
- "Hate on Display: 14 words". Anti-Defamation League. http://www.adl.org/hate_symbols/numbers_14words.asp. Retrieved 2007-06-01.
- "Wu-Tang's O.D.B. Bumrushes Grammy Podium". MTV. February 25, 1998. http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1429493/19980225/ghostface_killah.jhtml.
- Kristen N. Fox. "Won't Somebody PLEASE Think of the Children?". Conscious Creation. http://www.consciouscreation.com/cce-ThinkChildren.htm. Retrieved 2008-06-13.