LinkedIn is to let children as young as 13 join its site. It’s not so much a way to network your way to a paper route as a form of extremely early preparation for college.
It’s the first time LinkedIn has let under 18s sign up without using a bogus date of birth. In most cases 13 will be the new minimum limit, though local restrictions mean it will be 14 in Australia, Canada, Germany, Spain, South Korea and the United States and 16 in the Netherlands. China will continue to have a minimum age of 18.
Any accounts set up by somebody under 18 will have default settings that make pages more private and limit communications from unknown people. Any support reports from under 18s will be routed to a special team, and the new accounts will include a clear link to the site’s safety section.
The new age limits are part of a change in focus on the site. Previously it’s concentrated on networking among people and businesses. There’ll now be special pages for Universities rather than businesses, allowing students and academic staff to communicate.
According to LinkedIn, opening the site up to under-18s makes it easier for them to research possible colleges and courses and get advice from current students and careers advisors. They’ll also be able to start building their profile with features such as test scores, school honors and extra-curricular activities. In the long term the idea is that LinkedIn can become a way of looking for college internships.
The BBC quotes one Internet expert as saying children could use LinkedIn as a more professional profile and keep more personal and potentially embarrassing posts, photos and activities to Facebook. Of course, that divide might simply tip off potential employers to look at Facebook to find the real juicy stuff.