LinkedIn Welcomes Teens, Grown-Ups Despair

LinkedIn thinks teenagers are going to want to network with potential future employers, so it has opened the door to students who are 13 or over. But some adults aren’t that taken with the idea.

The change to the site’s terms of service came on the day it launched University Pages, designed to provide students with the tools to find out more about universities and to engage with them.

LinkedIn will open the service to 13-year-olds from 12 September.

LinkedIn: Come on in kids

“Smart, ambitious students are already thinking about their futures when they step foot into high school – where they want to go to college, what they want to study, where they want to live and work,” said Eric Heath, director of legal for global privacy and public policy at LinkedIn.

“We want to encourage these students to leverage the insights and connections of the millions of successful professionals on LinkedIn, so they can make the most informed decisions and start their careers off right.”

He promised a range of protections for youngsters, including default limiting of publicly viewable profiles for minors. Customer support tickets initiated by members under 18 will also get dealt with differently.

Not all are happy about LinkedIn welcoming teenagers, however. “In my view one of the differentiating factors of LinkedIn, and the main reason why it could still attempt to classify itself as a professional rather than a social networking site was the minimum age requirement,” said Rik Ferguson, director of security research and communication for Trend Micro.

“It meant that LinkedIn was sure of its demographic and could spend time developing a product and services for that specific audience. Lowering the entry age requirement dilutes that target audience and means that neither LinkedIn, or its advertising partners will be so focussed in their aims.

“I am left with the sinking feeling that in its drive to attract 13 year old customers LinkedIn will begin to drown in the development of features and functionality that a 13 year-old might cherish but I have no desire for. I’ve already got Facebook for that.”

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Thomas Brewster

Tom Brewster is TechWeek Europe's Security Correspondent. He has also been named BT Information Security Journalist of the Year in 2012 and 2013.

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