LinkedIn, the professional networking site, is dropping its minimum age requirement to as young as 13 years old.
The announcement, made on LinkedIn's corporate blog, attempts to paint the decision as being in the best interests of young students:
We are updating our User Agreement to make LinkedIn available to students 13 years and older, depending on country. 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. 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.
They missed out the bit about how LinkedIn also wants to boost its membership numbers, and offer a larger audience for its advertisers.
The precise minimum age for LinkedIn membership depends on where you live in the world, according to its revised terms of service.
In most of the world - including the United Kingdom where I live - LinkedIn members can be as young as 13 years old.
The minimum age for LinkedIn members will vary by country; in the United States it is 14. In deciding these ages, we worked to ensure that all were in line with existing regulations in each country. Here’s the country and age breakdown:
- 14 years old: United States, Canada, Germany, Spain, Australia and South Korea
- 16 years old: Netherlands
- 18 years old: China
- 13 years old: All other countries
Is 13 years old really an appropriate age to be on LinkedIn looking for a job? Do you really need a LinkedIn account to determine which college you might want to go to? Should 13-year-old's really be linking up with CEOs and recruiters at companies around the world, or people who tell them that they can "help them" with their careers?
LinkedIn clearly realises introducing young teenagers to its membership is a move that is likely to cause controversy, and says that younger users will have different default privacy settings including hiding their year of birth (until they are 18 years old) and not displaying surnames, or being specific about their location.
It isn't immediately clear whether teenagers will be able to change these privacy settings if they aren't happy with the defaults.
LinkedIn has made a video promoting how they can help students in their hunt for eventual employment.
But you'll notice that LinkedIn doesn't have any people aged 13 in its video, BECAUSE THAT WOULD BE TOTALLY CREEPY.
Yes, you can be 13 years old and be on Facebook as well. So, you can argue that LinkedIn is just offering the same kind of thing as Facebook.
It's just that I always hoped LinkedIn would work to a higher standard than Facebook, which hardly has a stellar reputation for caring for its users' safety and privacy.