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Home Human Rights & Humanitarian Law > Humanitarian Laws of Armed Conflict > Child Soldiers and the Law > Child Soldiers? What Child Soldiers?

Child Soldiers? What Child Soldiers?
15 November 2004
[see also Child Soldiers & the Law]


UK Association of Publishers 2004 Award for  Most effective public sector title - Army Magazine, British Army Recruiting Group - Haymarket Customer Publishing

 "The key objective of ARMY Magazine is to encourage teenage boys and girls under the recruitment age of 16 to move from a simple 'interest' in the Army to a position where they actively consider a career...The judges felt that 'the magazine is clearly on brand and appropriate; it has very high production values and the back-up research results were impressive.'" more

Uncle Sam wants you (to play) - 2002 Summer's hottest online game, America's Army, brought to you gratis by, well, America's Army..

"It's nice to think that only this 18-year-old will look at this or play it at home. It doesn't happen that way," Merin said. "You're going to have brothers and sisters and cousins and other kids 11 and 12 and 13 years of age who can't process or truly understand the reasons for this, and do not truly appreciate the difference between reality and this type of fantasy..." more

UK's Reservations to Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, 2002

The United Kingdom understands that article 1 of the Optional Protocol would not exclude the deployment of members of its armed forces under the age of 18 to take a direct part in hostilities where: - a) there is a genuine military need... and .. more

Recruitment of 16 and 17 year olds actually increasing in British army - BBC 12 June 2001

"The report notes that recruitment of 16- and 17-year-olds is actually increasing at a time when the British Army is finding it difficult to fill its ranks with older recruits. It says aggressive advertising campaigns and recruitment drives have helped boost the ranks of young soldiers..."

Britain says like any other employer it should be able to recruit people straight out of school

"..Campaigners also back a UN optional protocol to raise the minimum age to 18. They say younger people in the armed forces are too vulnerable. But the UK and many other nations, including America, reject the proposed limit. Britain says like any other employer it should be able to recruit people straight out of school, and they are all volunteers for a long-term career.." more

British Army  opposes move to raise recruitment age from 16 to 18 - BBC  22 June 1998

"..the army describes the UN's initiative as "potentially disastrous".  "We lose the ability to attract the young individual at the appropriate time to a career of first choice. We are unable to offer those young people who want an army career the opportunity to have that career," said Brigadier Freddie Viggers, from Army Recruitment.." more


 Association of Publishers 2004 Award for  Most effective public sector title - Army Magazine, British Army Recruiting Group - Haymarket Customer Publishing

ARMY MagazineAward Citation: "The key objective of ARMY Magazine is to encourage teenage boys and girls under the recruitment age of 16 to move from a simple 'interest' in the Army to a position where they actively consider a career.

The publication aims to instil a sense of confidence in the reader that a career in the Army is well worth investigating. The challenge for Haymarket Customer Publishing over the past year has been to move the title forward, sharply focusing the recruitment message and refining the editorial content to reflect a constantly changing organisation.

The results as to the effectiveness of the title more than illustrate Haymarket's ability to deliver against these objectives. Various mechanisms are in place to measure this effectiveness. Every issue contains a member, get member ad and a 'join Camouflage' data capture mechanism, while readers are constantly encouraged to join using the website. The follow through from readers for each of these response tools was seen to be impressive.

The judges felt that 'the magazine is clearly on brand and appropriate; it has very high production values and the back-up research results were impressive.' They praised it's 'innovative format and balanced and original articles.' "


Uncle Sam wants you (to play) - (Courtesy) Chip Charter in St. Petersburg Times, 19 August 2002

An American soldier is in trouble. He's cut off from the rest of his squad and looking for a way across an exposed rooftop. Terrorists in the desert below are launching grenades at him and his comrades. The soldier takes a deep breath, rolls to his left, springs to his feet and begins to sprint. He's greeted with a blinding flash and a deafening roar as a grenade lands at his feet. Joe Iovino is dead.

No worries, though. Iovino, who's actually a senior at Wharton High School in Tampa, will be good to go again in a couple of minutes, as soon as the rest of his squad completes the mission. Iovino's playing the summer's hottest online game, America's Army, brought to you gratis by, well, America's Army.

The game is an eye-popping, first-person combat simulation two years in the making and takes players from basic training at Fort Benning, Ga., to action in hot spots around the world. Gamers can tackle missions alone on their home PC or join other combatants online.

The Army spent two years and more than $7-million to develop and implement the Windows game as a recruiting tool (a two-disk free home version will be available this month. You can register for a copy or download the online game at www.goarmy.com ).

Iovino, an avid gamer, has been playing America's Army since "the day it came out -- I mean like the very minute," along with about 200,000 other gamers who have registered at the Web site since July 4. He guesses he plays up to four hours a day, then admits with a grin, "I'm running on, like, two hours of sleep."

As he hunts terrorists and handles weapons including M-16s and grenades, he's also getting a not-so-subtle sales pitch from the Army.

Lt. Col. Casey Wardynski, originator and director of the project, says America's Army is a "way to communicate the Army's values and opportunities to today's young Americans. Given the popularity of military games and the ability of a game to be a great medium for both entertainment and education, we believe that the America's Army game will be a very effective and cost-effective communications tool."

photo
[U.S. Army]
It’s not all of the fun and war games: America’s Army characters must attend basic training before competing online.

No question. Kids love games, and the $7.3-million price tag represents less than one-half of 1 percent of the Army's annual recruiting budget. But is there something kind of creepy about the Army plying recruitment-age teens with a free video game filled with virtual thrills and kills.

There are a dozen missions (more scenarios are planned at regular intervals over the next five years) that portray running and gunning action, but not one that has gamers peeling potatoes in a hot kitchen for 18 hours at a stretch.

"Or scrubbing the bathroom floor with a toothbrush," Iovino said. "That doesn't bother me. I know (if) I go there that's (part of) what I'll be experiencing."

But Dr. Sidney Merin, a Tampa forensic psychologist, says America's Army, which is rated T for Teen, raises some ethical questions. He isn't concerned about the older teens who get the recruiting pitch but about their younger siblings and peers who will likely be exposed to it as well.

"It's nice to think that only this 18-year-old will look at this or play it at home. It doesn't happen that way," Merin said. "You're going to have brothers and sisters and cousins and other kids 11 and 12 and 13 years of age who can't process or truly understand the reasons for this, and do not truly appreciate the difference between reality and this type of fantasy. They know it's fantasy, but they're very, very impressionable."

He also worries that "an arm of the government" has put its stamp of approval on a game that so eloquently depicts "maiming and killing" in a realistic setting.

Merin also says the Army may get more than it bargained for in terms of who responds to the pitch.

"They're using very strong advertising to recruit certain types of personalities, a sort that has an interest in the military, which is perfectly acceptable. But you're also recruiting certain types of individuals who may be less emotionally stable than the military would like to have," Merin said.

The game was developed by the Army and the MOVES Institute at the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey, Calif. Army experts put the developers through weapons and situational training intensive enough "to keep all our scenarios and missions true to life," Lt. Col. Wardynski said.

The result is an unqualified success from an entertainment standpoint. It's also breathtakingly realistic. Weapons are less accurate on the run than at a standstill, reloading occurs in real time and even breathing affects aim.

And America's Army is a graphic masterpiece, right down to the grimy hands that stretch out in front of you to do your dirty work.

Iovino says the game ranks in his all-time Top 10. "I fell in love with the way it looked the second I saw it," he said. "Everything was real. The guns, the grenades -- it was all there."

Iovino says military service "was a tiny thought in my head at the beginning of this year, but this game was the cherry on top. It has influenced me. I won't lie," and now he's thinking about a hitch in the Army.

Iovino goes back to his game, rejoining his online comrades for another mission. Cornered in a building, he takes several rounds from a terrorist's AK-47 and groans as his character drops to the ground.

"They don't really show you the gruesome part," he said, laughing. "They can't simulate the pain."

- Chip Carter is a syndicated video game columnist who lives in Tampa.


UK's Reservations to Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child

"The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland will take all feasible measures to ensure that members of its armed forces who have not attained the age of 18 years do not take a direct part in hostilities.

The United Kingdom understands that article 1 of the Optional Protocol would not exclude the deployment of members of its armed forces under the age of 18 to take a direct part in hostilities where: -

a) there is a genuine military need to deploy their unit or ship to an area in which hostilities are taking place; and
b) by reason of the nature and urgency of the situation:-

i) it is not practicable to withdraw such persons before deployment; or
ii) to do so would undermine the operational effectiveness of their ship or unit, and thereby put at risk the successful completion of the military mission and/or the safety of other personnel."


Recruitment of 16 and 17 year olds actually increasing in British army - BBC 12 June 2001

"Britain has been criticised in a new report which identifies countries that routinely recruit child soldiers. The Child Soldiers Global Report, released on Tuesday, identifies the UK Government as the only country in Europe that still recruits 16-year-olds, and routinely sends soldiers as young as 17 into battle....The country finds itself in the company of African nations like Sierra Leone and Sudan for bringing "children" into the ranks of the armed forces...Although new recruits do not immediately go into combat, 17-year-olds have served in the Falklands conflict and during the Gulf War. So far there is little sign of any change in the British Army. The report notes that recruitment of 16- and 17-year-olds is actually increasing at a time when the British Army is finding it difficult to fill its ranks with older recruits. It says aggressive advertising campaigns and recruitment drives have helped boost the ranks of young soldiers. Britain was criticised on the same issue at a European conference in Berlin in 1999."


Britain says like any other employer it should be able to recruit people straight out of school

"....The UK's armed forces recruit school leavers from the age of 16, and they can be used on operations from 17 - the limit under current international conventions....Campaigners also back a UN optional protocol to raise the minimum age to 18. They say younger people in the armed forces are too vulnerable. But the UK and many other nations, including America, reject the proposed limit. Britain says like any other employer it should be able to recruit people straight out of school, and they are all volunteers for a long-term career. Sixteen-year-olds also need parental permission to join, and will be well past their 17th birthday before joining the frontline ..."


 


British Army   opposes UN move to increase recruitment age from 16 to 18

The UN has adopted a worldwide policy to persuade armies to raise their recruitment age from 16 to 18, but the British Army which is trying to reverse a decline in recruitment opposes the move.... However, the army describes the UN's initiative as "potentially disastrous".  "We lose the ability to attract the young individual at the appropriate time to a career of first choice. We are unable to offer those young people who want an army career the opportunity to have that career," said Brigadier Freddie Viggers, from Army Recruitment. The British Army is stepping up its efforts to recruit 16-year-olds as part of a drive to fill the gaps in its ranks.  It will open a foundation college in three months for young recruits at Uniacke barracks, near Harrogate, North Yorkshire. Promotional literature for the college uses the phrase, "New opportunities for 16-year-olds".

Neither does the UN's policy cut any ice with some of the army's current 16-year-old recruits. "I thought it was just the right age, just coming out of school, it was no time to sit around and doss around at home," said one young man. Another said: "If you're 16 and join the army, you're obviously going to grow up pretty fast and your maturity level's going to be more than an 18-year-old."  Their views were echoed by a female recruit: "At 18, they'll just think about getting out there, whereas at 16 they've got more to learn."
 

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