Kids on LinkedIn: Pros and Cons

LinkedIn: should teens be given the keys? I have been following the debate: Should LinkedIn grant kids the right to have profiles starting next month?

Gizmodo wonders if 16 might be a better entry point, El Reg worries that many kids might just use the site to screw around, and Graham Cluley just finds the thing creepy and shameful.

This LinkedIn blog article announces the launch of its University Pages on Monday:

And today, I’m delighted to announce the launch of University Pages on LinkedIn – one cornerstone of our strategy to help students at every critical milestone from campus to fulfilling, successful careers.

It is a few paragraphs later in the post that the blogger mentions that LinkedIn will be lowering the acceptable age:

Therefore, beginning on September 12, we will be making LinkedIn available to high school students* who can use LinkedIn to explore schools worldwide, greatly expand their understanding of the careers available, and get a head start on building a network of family and friends to help guide them at every milestone.

Notice there is no mention on this post about actual allowed age. At the very bottom of her post, the author does link to the updated terms of service page, which states clearly that the age is being lowered to 13 (14 in the US, Canada and Australia).

A few thoughts, then, on this new change.

Pros and Cons of kids on LinkedIn

Some teens, even those as young as 13, will relish the opportunity to start building their profile on the site. Concerns over job opportunities are very real, and getting out of the gates early is no bad thing.

Consider 11-year-old Zachary Maxwell, who spent six months filming his documentary Yuck, showing how school lunches were wildly more disgusting than advertised. Zachary would be a prime candidate for this offering, but he will need to wait a year or two before he is of age to create a page on LinkedIn.

I don’t doubt for a second that teens today are much more savvy than previous generations about online predators. There is a lot more advice and information to help us all stay safer online. But that doesn’t mean kids take security as seriously as we adults do.

Last year, I met a bright 15 year-old who told me that you proved best friend status at her school by handing over Facebook passwords with best friends. “It’s not a problem – we all do it,” she said.

It does worry me that people will prey on these teens’ desire to be discovered, promising them fake salaries and jobs for some nefarious purpose. But then I would worry about this on most sites, not just LinkedIn.

I do however hope that LinkedIn learns from other social sites, like Ask.fm or Twitter, and include a highly visible Report Abuse button, so teens can feel supported if they feel victimised in any way. I didn’t see any mention of this in their Safety Tips, though credit to LinkedIn, they do seem to have considered several safety aspects.

And from the perspective of a LinkedIn user, I am not sure how the two areas – one for professionals and one for teens – will intermingle. I would prefer the two areas be separated, so that my LinkedIn use isn’t further complicated by this new audience. I imagine teens would feel the same.

Why are LinkedIn doing this?

Money, of course.

Looking at LinkedIn’s latest financial report, its second quarter was exceptionally strong,
with “revenue for the second quarter was $363.7 million, an increase of 59% compared to $228.2 million in the second quarter of 2012.”

Check out these stats from DMR:

linkedin stats from DMR

So, it’s wise for LinkedIn to continue growing its glut of users. The greater the number of users, the greater the opportunity to increase its revenue stream. And this is no different from what other social sites like Facebook do: target everyone, including 13 year-old kids.

LinkedIn however has to be a little more careful with their marketing angle, so they called its section dedicated to kids University Pages.

Clever, as it certainly will be appealing to parents.

Carole TheriaultKids on LinkedIn: Pros and Cons

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