Child rights are those which are accorded to children. They may be called ‘positive rights’ and are usually those that have been recognised in law, or’moral rights’ which are those which are accorded to children by some moral theory.
The concept of children rights was first developed in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted in 1989 (United Nations 1989). These include the right for a child to have their ‘best interests’ be a ‘primary consideration’ in all decisions concerning them and the right for a child “who is capable of forming his own views” to express these views freely in all matters affecting him.
Several debates have been engaged in about the issue of whether or not children have rights, and what kinds of rights they might possess. Some critics argue that children do not have rights, whereas others believe that they do.
A central argument against rights for children is that it is wrong to give children all the rights that adults have. The claim is that children should not have as many rights as adults because they are too young and therefore not worthy of such rights. It is also claimed that giving them rights would be an inappropriate way to treat them because it displays a misunderstanding of what childhood is and what children are like or because it is incompatible with the relationships between adults and children that they share.
Another criticism of rights for children is that they are not all-inclusive and are not in place to cover every possible situation. For instance, a child who is confined to a wheelchair due to a debilitating illness does not have ‘developmental’ rights but can still be entitled to welfare and protection rights as well.
Some of these rights, such as freedom of speech and the right to be free from sexual abuse, are acquired over time. This is because the law often regulates the types of things that can be said or done by children depending on their age and level of maturity.
For example, schools sometimes ban students from expressing opinions on controversial topics that they might be deemed too controversial for their age group. Similarly, when a teenager is arrested for a crime such as shoplifting, state courts can remove them from their home and place them in foster care if the court feels that they are not safe.
The question of whether children have rights is an important one because it reflects a key aspect of human nature and a major challenge to our morality. It is also a moral issue which has an important bearing on our attitudes towards other people.
Among the most significant aspects of this debate is that it is not simply a question of whether children are worthy of having rights, but whether they can have them in the first place. The question of capacity is an important issue which has been addressed in a variety of ways by philosophers.