In a move sure to be discussed in social media circles and beyond, LinkedIn will be allowing people as young as 14 to sign up as of September 12. Along with this change will come many more pages from colleges with enhanced content aiming to interest this new demographic in attending one school or another as well as letting the schools start the evaluation process that much sooner. It will also allow recent grads to improve their alumni-related networking efforts.
Underlying it all is LinkedIn’s hope for a better bottom line. Last quarter the site grossed $360 million and of that total, $200 million came from businesses who paid the site for data access for recruiting purposes. By allowing high schoolers in, the site is just widening their base of active users and getting kids started earlier in terms of setting up a professional persona to go along with the more casual ones they maintain on Facebook and Twitter.
Cynics would see this move as a further invasion of privacy, another shot at monetizing private data and a further shrinking of the actual length of childhood. Company officials haven’t ruled out setting up a fee supported service that will allow colleges to eventually scour the online resumes of teenage LinkedIn members in hopes of snaring the best and brightest (or those with a web-savvy parent or adviser). In the final analysis, we’re creating a generation of kids that have been tested, tracked, evaluated and scrutinized like lab animals almost since birth. This is just the next step in the process.
Eventually, if this continues, kids will be evaluated, pegged and pigeon-holed by age five and an implanted chip in their arm will contain all relevant data available to anyone (college, cop, business) with the right scanner and access code. In the short term, this is just another move that will help to keep upper middle class white kids on top and enrich a company not really desperate for more cash.
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