Children Seen but Not Heard

Children are expected to abide by the will of their parents. In the last 200 years, American jurisprudence has given parents the ability to control their children’s upbringing with few exceptions. The principle governing this norm is that parents know best and will use their better knowledge to protect their children’s welfare. 

The COVID-19 pandemic, public school rules, and children’s privacy laws offer modern examples of regulations in which the interests of parents and children may not align. Minors may want access to vaccines, despite a parent’s refusal to sign a consent form. Minors may want to talk to their teachers about their sexual orientation, despite laws limiting discussions about gender and sexuality in public schools. Minors may want to privately explore the internet, despite young people having no legally recognized expectation of privacy from their parents. 

This Article offers a comprehensive legal analysis of how parent, child, and state rights collide in the modern era. This Article examines how COVID-19 vaccine decisions, recent parental rights legislation, and attention on children’s online safety have illuminated young people’s lack of independent rights. It argues that young people have a right to grow and thrive as individuals, even when doing so may exist outside of the shade of their parents’ long-held values and beliefs.