LinkedIn Teens

OMG! Teens On LinkedIn?

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Career coaches and social media experts are in an uproar about the recent decision by LinkedIn (LI) to allow teenagers fourteen and above to join the site. The concern is that allowing teens on LinkedIn will bring an unprofessional air to the social media site and that executives will then lose interest in using it.

Amazing. I guess I’ll have to go on it all day, like I do on Facebook.” This, like much of what my 13-year-old daughter says these days, was dripping with sarcasm. She’s not being disrespectful here; she’s just trying to be cute, asserting her individuality from what she knows is a very important online tool to her mother. Plus, she’s just not that interested in social media.

Since the whole point of teen development is to assert one’s independence, my feeling is that you won’t find many teens jumping at the chance to sign up for a LinkedIn account. Especially if it’s a parent that suggests it, hoping their kid will use the site to explore data LinkedIn will be listing on its new “Colleges” pages.

In his post for Forbes magazine titled, Precocious! 14-Year-Olds Can Join LinkedIn, Size Up Colleges, George Anders agrees, saying, “If the ensuing battle for teens’ attention is measured by time spent on sites, Facebook is guaranteed to super-poke LinkedIn into oblivion.”

My 17-year old son’s response to my asking if he’ll want to set up an account: “Are you going to force me to join it?” I asked if teens will be interested in using LinkedIn, and he remarked, “Not unless the teenager is a really professional weirdo.”

Before you think my kids are total slackers (which they are not – both excellent students, Shakespearian actors, avid readers, talented musicians – all around good kids, if I do say so myself), their response was not unique. I surveyed some teen friends on Facebook, and the response was underwhelming. Actually, there was no response — the only respondents were adults. (And, I have quite a few teenaged friends!)

But, if teens do sign up for LinkedIn accounts in droves, and decide to create obnoxious, fake profiles, will this turn execs off to using the website? Or, is this any different from what we already see on LinkedIn? There have been problems with scammers, “adult” entertainers, and other illegal activity on the site.

Are these profiles irritating? Yes. Does it ruin my LinkedIn experience? No, because I just ignore them. It’s a pretty simple solution!

Will all teens cause problems on LinkedIn? Of course not. There are many responsible kids who would benefit from using the site. But…after all, on social media, kids will be kids. To LinkedIn’s credit, they do encourage teens to “Remember that the way you conduct yourself on LinkedIn is a reflection of who you are. This means taking a moment to think before you post, and being thoughtful when you do so.”

I can see where LI thought this was a good idea. I think they want to help kids think about their futures from an early age, and figured there was a market for that service, but whether this will actually happen in reality is another story. I mean, I tell my kids to do things that are good for them all the time, but do they always do it? LOL. I wish!

Overall, I don’t think we’ve got much to worry about here. I highly doubt teens will flock to LinkedIn and undermine our professional efforts. Kids want to be where the other kids are. Not where grown-ups think they should be. Plus, we do have to give teens a bit more credit. Not all are completely immature or incapable of handling themselves appropriately. Could that be a problem? Sure. Will every teen be a trouble maker on LI, though? I don’t think it’s fair to assume they’ll be the demise of LI just because of their age.

What do you think? I’d love to know in the comments below.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Kristin Johnson

Kristin is a TORI award-winning, 6-times certified resume writer, job search coach, and social media consultant. She's the proud owner of Profession Direction, LLC, which was recently named one of Forbes' Top 100 Career Sites of 2013.

20 comments

  1. With working papers Young adolescents can work in the US But I don’t see the use of it for Young teenagers unless they are already working. Linkedin could make a separate site for college information. LIcollege or something like that. Immaturity knows no age, but older people are more likely to understand the purpose of Linkedin.

  2. It is refreshing to read comments such as ” lets not stereotype teenage behaviour, but lets be logical…..Linkedin is not for teenagers as a whole. In a perfect world only level headed teenagers will use this website , but we do not live in a perfect world. Time will tell and if i am wrong, then i will be the first to say so, if i am right , the horse would have bolted and it will be too late to address the issue. Maybe it can be opened on a trial basis for a limited time only and if the reaction and usage is not professional, then it can be terminated.

  3. I had a LI profile at 17 (right when LI started to become popular), I was interested in Stage Managing and built a network of Theater Professionals in my area as well as in NY for advice on how to get into the business and to find Stage Managment Jobs. I have since changed carrer paths, and use LI to connect with co-workers and such. But even in college the most connections are with peers. I think the young adults who are going to take advantage of LI are going to use it for what it is meant to be used for and not like a Facebook or Twitter,

  4. I’m not certain 14 year olds need to be on LinkedIn although I’m prepared to believe there are some which may find it beneficial (think Craig Keibler!).
    I have always encouraged co-op students to create a LinkedIn profile to start setting up their professional network. They intuitively understand the value of networking and can easily be taught about professional networks vs. their personal networks. They can learn lots of useful information about the work world in the LinkedIn groups while contributing a fresh perspective which experienced professionals can gain from.
    While my students were initially dismissive of LinkedIn, they came to see it as valuable and have embraced it with eagerness. They were surprised and pleased to see many people they know were already on LinkedIn and happy to connect with them (professors, current and former employers, family friends, etc.). It’s all about them understanding WIIFM (what’s in it for me).

  5. Bernadette Wilson Conley

    Many of the negative reactions to the lower LinkedIn age limit seem based on stereotypes about teenage behavior. Yet many young leaders display vision, creativity, and channel their energy towards improving their communities and developing their talents. LinkedIn allows them to get recommendations and keep a record of their accomplishments in a verifiable way for future employers. I choose to trust most young people to use LinkedIn appropriately.

  6. Perhaps if there were a specific section just for underage professionals….kind of like separating Kindergarteners from the rest of the population…..
    I was wondering when this would start happening….only a matter of time I guess. So, this is a social networking site for working professionals??
    …..can’t imagine what their parents would be thinking. Mixed feelings on this, but overall……not thrilled with this prospect and I do volunteer work with teens.

  7. I find it interesting we are stereotyping teens and their use of social media. My son has been using LinkedIn since he was 15 to create a network of like minded professionals. See he races stock cars and he has used it to connect to other racers, parts manufactures and race related people.
    What he doesn’t do is put up his “social” life on linked in. Ever post is professional and has to do with marketing and creating a brand. His own brand, the one that will assist him in furthering his racing career.
    Is it affective? Yes very much so, While attending a trade show late last year we were talking with a vendor and my son handed him his business card (yes he has his own with all the correct contact info) and the gentlemen went “we just exchanged messages on LinkedIn last week.” In the ensuring conversation he made a strong connection with this business owner and still keeps him up to date on his racing progress.
    My belief is LinkedIn goes beyond just being a “social” media site and if used correctly for networking it is beneficial to all ages. Just don’t tell me what you had for breakfast, that’s when I’ll ignore you.

  8. Teens who are curious about their future can benefit. If done properly, LI has the potential to help them discover possibilities and network.

  9. I agree with some of the above, there are some teens who would really thrive on LI as they will in the world of work. I certainly don’t think it’s too young to be curious about social media like LinkedIn and most certainly for information on careers, courses , find like minded teens, find mentors. Among the teens I work with there are definitely the wills and wonts as in everything.

  10. Though I do think 14 is a bit young in terms of interest, I agree that 16+ teens could benefit from having access to LinkedIn. It is useful for conducting research on colleges and companies. Having a LinkedIn account does not necessarily mean a person is tied to a specific career path. One of the greatest uses of LinkedIn is to stay connected to professional contacts. Teens could use LinkedIn to stay in touch with mentors, job supervisors, teachers, etc. which will help them secure recommendation letters and references. Having access to such a site I think is an opportunity for teens to begin learning about how to network properly, and how to conduct themselves professionally online.
    I might have gotten a LinkedIn account in high school had it existed, but I probably was a “professional weirdo” LOL

  11. I work with teens ages 14-21. I have worked with a handful of 14 year olds over the years that are very mature and career driven. LinkedIn is not for everyone, teens and adults alike. But, give those who could benefit from it the opportunity to join.

  12. As the developer of Career Coaching for Students program, I introduce high school students to LinkedIn but don’t ask them to create a LI profile. For college students, creating a LI profile is mandatory as part of my program.

    At the high school level, I want students to find and conduct informational interviews with people in their career interest. I assist them in the search with my own LI account and suggest they check to see if their parents are on LI. Any informational meetings whether by phone or at the person’s office must be with the full knowledge and oversight of the parents.

    That approach seems to be adequate. We offer many other online resources to learn about specific careers through our our research portal – Student Resource Central.

    If LI is going to drop the age restriction, 16 yrs of age is the most it should go. There are many other ways the middle schooler can research and learn about careers.

  13. I agree with everything you said as well as the comments. Teens ready to get career-serious now have LinkedIn as a tool, and the rest won’t bother. I’m looking forward to – one day – helping my now seven-year-old use LinkedIn for college research and growing her network with an eye toward her career, but I’m not worried that the next time I pop over to the LI website it’ll be in full silliness mode. Don’t see that happening.

  14. There are teens who have started their own businesses or have been in the work world – how about a LinkedIn site for teens, separate from the adult site?

  15. Fourteen is too young to start fast-tracking kids into careers! Let them enjoy childhood and the teenage years while they can. There will be enough time for involvement in career-related activities. They may also find a special skill, talent or interest while “wandering” through the teen years.

  16. I think since the purpose is in building a network and not just seeking employment, that anybody who is serious about a career field should be able to use it, particularly to find career-related work as early as possible. Also, these same executives should consider that all adults, themselves included, have an obligation to society to help keep youth directed towards constructive ends. LinkedIn can help with these efforts.

  17. I don’t foresee many 14-year-olds signing up but it seems like a good opportunity for 16, 17,18-year-olds to start procuring a professional image for the beginning of their college careers. I don’t really see it turning “unprofessional” just because kids can join since it is a professional site. As an adult, I didn’t join LinkedIn until very recently because I thought the idea of “a professional social networking site” was ludicrous and unnecessary… I think teens will probably look at it similarly until it becomes useful to their goals…

  18. I’m sorry, but what exact professional career would a 14 year old have? Who would they be connecting with, other kids? Who would they know to connect with in the business world, as you’re not supposed to be connecting with those you don’t know. Do most 14 year olds living at home with mom and dad paying the bills even want to work at that age? I think the LinkedIn age should be closer to 17, a professional adult.

    • I completely agree. Is 14 even legal working age? I’m always a fan of making information available, especially about colleges. I think having a social media site available that revolves around self educating would be helpful for interested junior and senior high school students. 14 is a little young though. I love the title, very appropriate.

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