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What are Child Protection Laws?

By C. Webb
Updated May 17, 2024
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Child protection laws provide an umbrella of protection in all areas of a child's life, including overall safety, protection from all forms of abuse and protection while using the Internet or email. These laws can vary from place to place and country to country, but many child protection laws share similar elements. In many cases, violations of these laws carry greater punishment than similar crimes carried out against adults.

Pornography laws pertaining to child protection typically prohibit the sharing, purchasing, filming or emailing any print, photo or video that depicts children being exposed to or participating in sexually explicit situations. This includes minors engaged in sexual behaviors, obscene conduct or the display of a child's genitals when done in a sexual manner. When such sexual exploitation of a minor also results in the minor's death, those convicted of the crime could be sentenced many years in prison, life in prison or even death. The selling or buying of children for use in child pornography also falls under these kinds of child protection laws.

The advent of the Internet created a need for child protection laws regarding children's online usage and access. Some child protection laws require schools, libraries and other public places to install special software on all computers that are accessible to children. The software blocks the ability to access obscene or pornographic material online. These places typically must also adopt an Internet safety policy and inform the public of the policy. Some laws also place restrictions on how someone might use the Internet or email to contact a child he or she does not know personally and on what types of communications are permitted be sent to a child through the Internet or email.

Child protection laws that address general safety often include requirements for warning labels on things such as toys or other products that have small parts and might be choking hazards. These laws might specify certain part sizes, ages of children and types of products that will determine whether a warning label is required. Other safety hazards for children, such as spaces or gaps in a product, such as a piece of furniture, where a child might get stuck or have a body part stuck also can be addressed in child protection laws.

Reporting child abuse is required by some child protection laws if the observer works in certain fields. Mental health workers, physicians, social workers, teachers, daycare employees and law enforcement employees are often required by law to report suspected abuse to the proper authorities. In many places, the laws extend these reporting mandates to people such as foster parents, lawyers, religious workers and employees at camps for minors. Child protection laws regarding child abuse provide strict punishments for offenders. In addition, a person who fails to report suspected child abuse as required by the law might be subject to criminal charges as well.

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