LinkedIn: Growing up too fast?



Last week professional networking site, LinkedIn, announced plans to drop its minimum age for membership from 18 to 13. The site will be accepting this group of users from 12 September.

The news was shortly announced after the social network launched University Pages, designed to allow higher education institutions to set up profiles on the site. Both announcements indicate LinkedIn's strategy to extend its reach by enticing younger users from other social networks.

Many make take the viewpoint that this is a good move by LinkedIn to help teens kick start their career pathway, but I have a few reservations for the following reasons:

  • There’s already immense pressure on young people to know what they need to do to attain a successful career. I imagine schools may start to encourage pupils to start using the site to begin the process of building a CV / personal statement for university applications, adding even more pressure. Seriously, I don’t think most 13 year olds know what they want for the future, and demanding that they do could mean many choose the wrong path – university isn’t for everyone.
  • Kids are constantly judged on their performance and personality throughout school, and having a presence on LinkedIn is another facet in which they will be judged, or misjudged in some cases.
  • Lastly, but most importantly, I’m concerned that some younger users will fail to recognise the difference between the other informal social networking sites they are using regularly and professional sites like LinkedIn. Mistakes and using the wrong etiquette could potentially damage their reputation. 

It's not all negative though. On the other hand, I see the University Pages as a valuable addition to the site that will provide a great way for people to get a head start and explore their options to get familiar with courses/campuses they’re interested in before making such a life-changing decision. I also think they provide a purpose for uni students looking to leverage the site to network to help advance projects they’re working on (all I had was an intranet system to utilise and fellow students soon get fed up with ‘Please answer my dissertation survey’ posts), seeking advice from practitioners, searching job opportunities, and making contacts to break in to their career.

On the flip slide this is an opportunity for businesses to seek out fresh talent and new ideas. Many students are willing to take on freelance projects in their spare time or fill part-time roles, and for those businesses on a tighter budget commissioning a student for some work, or taking on a recent graduate is the perfect solution.