On September 12th, a change in the terms of service at LinkedIn will take effect, allowing users
as young as 13 to join the website. The rationale behind this change is the
addition of “University Pages” on LinkedIn, a feature that purportedly allows
students to search for a university that’s the right fit for them.

This new foray into teenage social networking is rather far
away from the original purpose of LinkedIn. Will this scope-widening change be
the poison pill that ultimately relegates LinkedIn to the failed social
networking ranks of MySpace and Xanga?

First off, LinkedIn’s University Pages feature itself is
somewhat lacking. With any rollout of a new service, it takes some time to add
more users, but as it stands, the University Pages feature will launch with 200
participating institutions across the world. This is far from exhaustive;
though it’s quite likely they’ll be able to lure the marketing departments of
other institutions to join the initiative.

But LinkedIn is running into the chicken-and-egg problem: There’s
no point for universities to extend their likely thin (or perhaps just
thinning) public relations team to maintain a presence on a website that
prospective students would not be using, and those searching wouldn’t bother to
sign up to search for universities on a site that contains profiles for such a
small percentage of institutions worldwide.

It would follow that their time would be better spent
courting potential students on websites where they actually presently
congregate—that is to say, Facebook.
Accordingly, joining LinkedIn for the purpose of getting what is, in essence, regurgitated
information one could otherwise easily find on Google is a poor use of time and
a poor value proposition for the extra step.

The second major problem in this endeavor, as readers with
children or nieces and nephews (or otherwise happen to have friended
13-year-olds on Facebook) would surmise, is that teenagers rarely display the
level of professionalism you would hope to find on LinkedIn. Accordingly, this
move would likely serve to disrupt the natural flow of what you would presume
at least approaches intelligent discourse on LinkedIn.  

This isn’t to say that LinkedIn is some bastion of
intelligence or civility, but to put it bluntly, discussion of less-than-professional
activities (e.g., blunts, and the smoking of them, among
others) would likely result.  

A substantial lowering of the level of professionalism in
the LinkedIn community could send users away in droves, and this change could
be the impetus behind such an exodus. The decline of MySpace can be attributed
chiefly to an influx of adults on what had been essentially a party lacking
adult supervision, and users tiring of aesthetically distressing custom themes
found on profile pages. A sudden influx of teenagers on a website intended for
career professionals would, it would follow, cause something of an upheaval on

This isn’t the only change that could undermine the
superiority that LinkedIn enjoys. The introduction of the “Endorsements”
feature late last year is a somewhat hollow attempt at adding further value to
the social network. Endorsements are circular, given between friends without
any form of outside verification, and don’t require the endorser to be
qualified in any way in the subject of the field in which they endorse someone
else. Consequently, people are being endorsed for skills they may well not
actually possess, and for skills that people only continue to begrudgingly
practice at the expense of their own mental health.

Of minor importance, the new lower age limits worldwide are
set at 13, except users for the United States, Canada, Australia, Spain,
Germany, and South Korea, who must wait until age 14. Dutch users can register
at age 16. Perhaps most out of luck in this change are Chinese children, by far
the most likely in this group to have already started a career, and therefore
properly merit a LinkedIn account, as they must continue to wait until age 18.

What are your opinions of this change by LinkedIn to lower
the age limit of registration to age 13? Share them with us in the comments
section below.