What were you doing in your spare time when you were 13? Practicing dance moves for when you would be the next pop sensation? Playing out in the street with your friends? At a summer camp?
Well, according to LinkedIn, you were doing childhood all wrong!
The world’s largest “professional” network will lower its minimum age requirement to 13 in most countries on 12th September, in a bid to encourage young people to plan out their career paths by comparing themselves to others on the site.
The announcement coincides with the launch of University Pages, where potential students can learn about universities worldwide and connect with students or alumni to hear about their experiences and future career paths.
In a blog post, the network said: “With our launch today of University Pages on LinkedIn, we are providing a new way for schools, students, and alumni to connect, communicate, and explore unique insights about the full range of career possibilities – wherever your educational starting point may be.”
They also insisted that security settings will be different for those users under 18, with their year of birth, surname and specific location hidden and profile picture only visible to their connections. They also won’t appear in search engine results pages.
But is this all putting a lot of unnecessary pressure on young people who are made to feel self-conscious enough as it is as part of an image-centric online generation without worrying about what university admission officers and recruiters think of their summer job?
Children as young as 13 shouldn’t have to be concerned with linking up with recruiters and company executives or planning out their route from school to college to university to job to career. If I did that when I was 13 it would look something like this: finish school, get signed by Universal, sell millions of records and be bigger than Britney.
This change in LinkedIn’s age requirements also leaves these children open to people looking to recruit them to ill-paid, dodgy positions while taking advantage of young people who have felt pressured to plan their lives at what is a very vulnerable and naïve age.
Shouldn’t children be allowed to be children? This pressure to compare themselves to alumni of their dream universities can derail their true passions to take on something more “practical”, and the future geniuses of the world could be lost to a stuffy office.
I can see the potential for users aged 16 and over to start scoping out universities and gain inspiration for their own career paths, but is a 13-year-old age limit really necessary? I don’t think so!
What’s more, there’s the risk that LinkedIn might push away their existing professional community and advertisers, as the network had a very strong identity in the past as a professional network. With these latest changes, it is losing its uniqueness and idea of their demographic.
Not to mention the dreaded endorsements. Seeing as they’re about as useful as a chocolate teapot to adults, won’t children just see it as a bit of fun and before you know it people are being endorsed for pouting and twerking?! The likes of Twitter and Facebook already have a very strong young user database, but LinkedIn has always been a sanctuary for professional people away from the Beliebers and Directioners of the world posting their posy pictures and “I LOVE HARRY STYLES!!!111!”!212″ statuses.
A vibe underlying all of this seems to be a greediness from LinkedIn. A desire to boost their membership numbers and offer a larger audience to potential advertisers at a massively inflated price.
But will it have the desired effect, or will it drive the network’s loyal users far, far away?
I’d love to hear what you think on this one. Let me know in the comments below.