Today’s wars and conflicts are increasingly fought among and alongside civilian populations. This means that professional soldiers are ever more likely to encounter children during military operations. Despite international efforts to eradicate the use of children in conflict zones, it is estimated that 300,000 child soldiers continue to fight in modern war zones. Armed groups such as as Boko Haram and the so-called Islamic State dominate headlines about the use of children in contemporary conflicts: both have had children deliver suicide bombs and carry out executions.
While the plight of the child soldier is an urgent problem, what’s often overlooked is the impact that encountering child fighters can have on professional soldiers.
Children appear in theatres of conflict in many ways. They can participate directly in hostilities by fighting, suicide bombing, or laying improvised explosive devices. They may be used in support roles to carry items through check points or spy on enemy forces; they might simply be deployed as distractions. (Michelle Jones, The Conversation, 15th February 2018)