Shameful and creepy. LinkedIn opens its doors to kids as young as 13 years old

LinkedInLinkedIn, 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.

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5 Responses

  1. Ellie Hurst

    August 20, 2013 at 2:16 pm #

    Completely creepy. I also hope that these kids will have the option denied the rest of us, to block certain users from seeing their comments, profiles and other output.

  2. Martijn Grooten

    August 20, 2013 at 10:04 pm #

    Aaron Schwarz co-wrote RSS when he was 14. Had LinkedIn existed then, he might have been an active member of a LinkedIn RSS 1.0-group. He's far from the only example of a teenager engaging with older people in a professional manner. I don't see why that'd be wrong. Even less so why that'd be creepy.

    Despite a regular user of its site, I'm no big fan of LinkedIn. But I really fail to see why this is wrong.

    • Martijn Grooten in reply to Martijn Grooten.

      August 20, 2013 at 10:11 pm #

      Also, back in the day, my school ran a project where 15-year-olds like me spent a week in a real company. I might have wanted to stay in touch with the people at that company – LinkedIn (had it existed back then, and had Dutch 15-year olds been allowed to use the site) seems like an ideal way for this.

  3. Mark Worley

    August 21, 2013 at 12:34 am #

    Scaremongering a bit here aren't we? I was in a workplace at 14/15 years of age, on a school-sponsored work-experience program. Mixing with (god forbid) adults!

    I was buying and selling things when I was a teenager. Something of a collector, but a little bit of an entrepreneur as well.

    I was part of the BBS networks, before the real Internet, and I made some great friends on there. No harm came to me, despite connecting with people locally and further afield! Hell, I learned to juggle and unicycle through that!

    Complaining that its 'creepy and shameful' without adequately explaining why it's either of those things is very unhelpful. Encourage young people who want to work and network with other professionals, don't discourage them. Police the networks they use by all means, but they face more dangers on the streets than on LinkedIn! I doubt they're going to hook up with dealers on there, sexual grooming is unlikely to happen when profiles are publicly linked to people's employers and cyber-bullying is no more likely there than in the workplaces they will soon be arriving in.

    I welcome young people who know where they are going in life into any environment that could help them on their way. I regularly get asked to place teenagers in work experience in my company because they know where they want to be and we can help them get there. Why shouldn't they be part of my professional network afterwards? Why shouldn't their prospective employers see why skills they have learned and had endorsed by me and my colleagues?

    Really, this article smacks of narrow-mindedness and knee-jerk reactionism. As Helen Lovejoy has oft been heard saying, "won't somebody please think of the children?"

  4. Joey Lee

    August 21, 2013 at 4:06 pm #

    I smell a new grooming ground. This opens up a whole new world of risk for LinkedIn, who have already suffered a breach in 2012. If the age requirement had been changed last year to 13, this would have been a completely different can of worms. bigger worms.

    also, LinkedIn's mobile applications will now be harvesting the contacts and personal information of children.

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