The British army has targeted recruitment material at “stressed and vulnerable” 16-year-olds via social media on and around GCSE results day, the Guardian can reveal.
Paid-for Facebook messages suggested to 16-year-olds that a career in the army would still be open to them if they did not get the grades they hoped for.nCampaigners against the recruitment of child soldiers accused the army of cynically trying to recruit young people at a time when they are worried about their results and future prospects.
Rachel Taylor, the director of programmes at Child Soldiers International, said: “Targeting army advertisements at teenagers when they are stressed and vulnerable is abhorrent. These adverts prove once again that the MoD is deliberately targeting children at the lowest limit of the legal recruitment age to fill the lowest qualified, least popular and hardest-to-recruit army roles. Using Facebook to target the country’s young people unwittingly and exploiting the anxiety of those who may be disappointed with their GCSE results with idealised and unrealistic advertisements is shameful.”
There has been growing concern about some of the army’s tactics for drawing in new recruits. The Guardian revealed last year that it had targeted young people from working-class backgrounds in a glossy recruitment campaign called This Is Belonging, despite claiming to aim advertising at all socioeconomic groups. A briefing document on the This Is Belonging campaign spelled out that the key audience was 16 to 24-year-old “C2DEs”, marketing speak for the lowest three social and economic groups.
The UK is the only country in Europe to recruit soldiers at 16. In the US the minimum age is 17. The UN committee on the rights of the child is among the organisations that have challenged the UK’s position.