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British army ads targeting 'stressed and vulnerable' teenagers
08/06/2018

The Guardian

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.

Campaigners 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.”

The Plaid Cymru MP Liz Saville Roberts said: “The government’s recruitment ads on social media tell young people that exam results don’t matter. If they truly have potential army recruits’ best interests at heart, they should prioritise their education budget over the army’s social media budget.”

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.

New information released after a written parliamentary question by Saville Roberts revealed that the army spent £1.7m on social media content between 2015 and 2017, the vast bulk of it on Facebook.

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