In many wars, most casualties are civilian children. But in recent years, the usage of children as soldiers has been increasing. Recently, many children around the age of 16 and even younger, have began fighting more widely in wars and conflicts all around the world, in 1988 it was reported there were as many as 200,000 currently active.
Typically people would imagine children being used for primitive tasks within the military but in actuality this is not always the case. Many children who join armies use heavy machinery such as AK-47’s or M-16’s. Many of these rifles have become very easy to attire, due to the fact that they have few parts and can be easily assembled.
Children join armies for many reasons, including the fact that joining an army may also be the only way to survive. Armed groups will often aim propaganda at young children to try and convince them to join. If children choose not to join, they can also be forced or conscripted.
After Joining, children are then subject to varying levels of indoctrination. Sometimes this induction will be brutal, others will lean more toward a psychological approach by terrorizing children in order to turn them into “warriors”. In Sierra Leone, child soldiers will often be forced to see their relatives being tortured or killed.
And while children might be thought to be the people deserving greatest protection, as soldiers they are often considered the most expendable.