Do you think censorship should vary depending on the impressionable age of the readers? Or is it always wrong? How about the difference between ‘official’ censorship by a government or a school system, as opposed to a parent saying No to a specific book for their child?
I think when dealing with parents or even older siblings, censorship depending on age is mostly okay. There were things my parents didn’t want me to watch based on my age and the content, although they didn’t seem to care much about books. Reading is seen of as such a good pastime that people are generally happy when kids do it at all, plus when most of my books were gifts at a young age, they were pretty familiar with the content anyway. Getting into middle school and high school, they didn’t pay much attention. I was reading some things they probably wouldn’t have been crazy about, but by then they also figured I could handle these things.
I do think parents can take it so far as to shelter their kids. It’s one thing to consider their age and the content, but it’s another to object to it because you don’t like it. Books offer a lot of truth and perspective and knowledge, and if a parent is consistently censoring their kids’ reading material, they could be keeping them from a lot of good stuff. And if, say, your kid is an adult living at home or even in their teens, you should be pretty much done with your say in what they can and can’t read.
Maturity is a huge factor, though. For example, my boyfriend is the oldest of six and they all pretty much like reading, so often books I loan him end up being passed among interested siblings and sometimes I loan things out just to them, though mostly only more romance stuff to his sisters. But when we discuss which books to loan which sibling, there are times when we think younger siblings could handle certain books better than older siblings based on their personalities and maturity. And we’ve basically ended up being right, like with American Gods. We thought one sibling would be fine with it and another wouldn’t, but he loaned it out to both and turns out our predictions were accurate.
Official censorship, though, is never okay because it’s too controlling. I don’t think banning a book is ever justifiable, and it’s never okay for a government to censor content. Just because someone finds content questionable doesn’t mean someone else will, and it doesn’t make it somehow dangerous.
Dealing with any censorship, whether official or not, I think books can simultaneously less and more powerful than people think. On the one hand, they provide perspective and information and ideas and can certainly influence people, but not necessarily to the point that some fear. Reading about sex and drugs isn’t gonna make someone go out and do it.
Plus those censoring content forget–especially if you’re dealing with telling teenagers they shouldn’t read something–that if you tell someone they shouldn’t be reading something, they’re gonna get curious and try to read it.