Sometimes young people shoot off their mouths without thinking and end up shooting themselves in the foot. Amos Yee did just that.
Freedom of speech for children: 17-year-old Amos Yee was arrested this week for uploading an anti-Lee Kuan Yew video. (Photo credit: YouTube screengrab)
As reported by The Straits Times, 17-year-old Singaporean, Amos Yee, made insensitive remarks about Christianity and about Mr. Lee Kuan Yew on an eight-minute YouTube video that went viral last week. Besides using a string of profanities, Amos made slanderous remarks about the late Mr. Lee’s political decisions and blatantly declared that he was happy to hear of the founding father’s demise, even saying that his soul would not rest in peace.
In the video, he also made an open invite to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to sue him. As if this was not enough, according to The Straits Times, the teenager also posted obscene material on his blog about Mr Lee and uploaded online materials on Christianity, apparently intending to hurt the feelings of Christians. The video and blogpost has since been taken down.
Amos was arrested on Sunday (29 March 2015) and was charged on all three offences on Tuesday (31 march 2015). The Straits Times has reported that a pre-trial conference has been fixed for 17 April 2015.
In the case of Amos Yee’s arrest, is this a way of curbing freedom of speech in children?
(Photo credit: YouTube screengrab)
The case of Amos Yee has created a lot of buzz online. Many netizens who had viewed the video and the blogpost condemned the actions by Amos. However, when he was arrested by the police, a new argument sprouted online about whether it was right to have arrested him. Were we curbing his freedom of speech?
Read on to find out how you can help achieve that fine balance on freedom of speech with your children.
Teaching your kids to express themselves
Freedom of speech is often a sticky issue for many parents, especially for parents who have to deal with the raging hormones of their tweens and teenagers. How then do we teach our children to express themselves openly, and yet not step into the danger zone?
Here are some guidelines for drawing the line on freedom of speech in kids:
Sit down with your kids and talk to them about what freedom of speech really means.
1. Educate them on what freedom of speech is and what it is not
According to Humanium, an organisation championing the rights of children, freedom is the power to act according to his or her own will, while respecting the law and the rights of others.
Freedom of speech then is about expressing your thoughts, while giving due respect. The moment there is no respect given to others when expressing opinions, freedom of speech freezes. Your child needs to know this.
2. Remind them of their responsibility
With power comes responsibility. Remind your child that if he embraces freedom of speech, he has to take responsibility for what he says and how he says it, so he had better think twice before blurting it out.
Teach your kids about empathy by talking about your feelings with them.
3. Develop empathy in them
Express your feelings when your child or someone else hurts you with his or her words. The child will then come to understand that just as how he can be hurt by what you or his friends tell him, so can others be hurt by his offensive remarks. Being empathetic will help them consider feelings of others and weigh the importance of making that statement.
4. Educate them on points of view
Help your child understand that the billions of people around the world all have their own points of view on issues, just as he has his own. Every individual viewpoint is correct, at least according to the best of that person’s knowledge. If your child thinks it is important to prove otherwise, tell him to educate that person, and not hurt, with his words.
Don’t forget to shower your kids with lots of love – this will go a long way in teaching them to be compassionate towards others when voicing their views.
5. Finally, give them lots of love!
This might come as a surprise, but children who disrespect others in the name of freedom of speech often may just be looking for attention – and lots of it. They know making shocking comments that go against the grain would get the attention they want, regardless of whether they themselves really believe what they say.
So, as parents, you need to assure your child that you love them, and with that sense of security, the craving for attention would fade. A little love can indeed go a long way.
What are your views on freedom of speech for children? Do you have any tips to share? Let us know by leaving a comment below!