Think of the children (and similar phrases citing the interests of children including what about the children) can be used to justify why something should, or should not, be done. When used as a plea for pity, this appeal to emotion can constitute a potential logical fallacy, while when used as an appeal for sympathy for weaker members of society, or the social good of the long-term health and viability of a society, it can constitute an argument for social justice generally accepted as appropriate.
China: One of the largest attempts was the Green Dam Youth Escort, by the People's Republic of China, which failed to mandate Internet content-control for all children in the country. This resulted in the forced pre-installation of "Green Dam Youth Escort" software on computers destined for China (software which was largely pirated from a program called CyberSitter). Unintentional consequences included that computers with this program were vulnerable to a remote buffer overflow security vulnerability.
UK: David Cameron and his government have warned that certain types of pornography will be criminalized (such as pornography with rape-like elements, even if acted), and a country-wide block of all pornography. This proxy-circumventable block would prevent any site with allegedly pornographic content being accessed by internet users, unless the subscriber requested to be unblocked from the ISP. The reason given was that online pornography was "corroding childhood".
Australia: Former Communications Minister Stephen Conroy billed his Internet censorship scheme as being for the purpose of protecting the children, despite concerns from organizations such as Save The Children which specialize in children's rights.
Self-described "pirates" Christian Engström, Rick Falkvinge and Oscar Swartz have alleged in 2010-2011 that censorship of child pornography is being used as a pretext by copyright lobby organizations to get politicians to implement similar site blocking legislation against copyright-related piracy.
US: Operation Protect Our Children (2011) blocked high-level domain names where only a subnetwork was allegedly responsible for the distribution of child pornography. This resulted in a large network being blocked and having a child pornography accusation on their homepage for days.
By 1977 there existed a Dade County, Florida ordinance which outlawed discrimination in employment, housing, and public services on the basis of sexual orientation. Anita Bryant led a campaign called Save Our Children. By claiming that gays and lesbians threaten children's safety, Bryant created a movement which convinced 70% of the voters to repeal the ordinance, removing those civil rights protections. In 1981, Jerry Falwell echoed these claims 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."
Claiming to do something for the benefit of children is not a fallacy of itself, but if used to avoid logical debate, it is a thought-terminating cliché. Ethicist Jack Marshall described "think of the children!" as a "tried-and-true debate-stopper" used by "misty-eyed crusaders" to promote government policies and societal actions intended to alleviate the suffering or promote the well-being of children of improvident, impoverished, or otherwise flawed parents, which harms society by removing an important incentive for prudent behavior and by encouraging non-eugenic breeding by the type of person who has "fathered more kids than he can possibly support":
'Think of the children!' is a tried-and-true debate-stopper, but more often than not one that succeeds because of its ability to inhibit rational thought. Children routinely have to suffer the consequences of adult incompetence, recklessness, stupidity, dishonesty and irresponsibility, and if preventing that biologically-dictated result is humanity's priority, then society needs to abolish the enforcement of laws, the obligation to support one's own family, and common sense... [U]nless society sticks to principles that require adults to be responsible regarding the welfare of children in their charge, the 'Think of the children!' reflex will suffocate order and justice.
—Jack Marshall, 'Think of the Children!': An Ethics Fallacy