LinkedIn: membership age, privacy and skills endorsement

How are your freestyle llama wrestling skills? Worthy of endorsement by members of your LinkedIn network?

The question comes up in coverage of news that the “world’s largest professional network” is throwing membership open to 13-year-olds.

But not everywhere in the world. In Australia, the United States, Canada, Germany, Spain and South Korea you’ll need to be 14; in the Netherlands 16; and in China 18.

The change, which takes effect on September 12, relates to the launching of university pages, part of LinkedIn’s “strategy to help students at every critical milestone from campus to fulfilling, successful careers”.

In a blog post this week, LinkedIn’s product management director, Christina Allen, said university pages would be valuable for students making a decision about which institution to attend. Business school INSEAD, New York University and the University of California San Diego have joined up.

A LinkedIn privacy and public policy spokesman, Eric Heath, blogged that “smart, ambitious students are already thinking about their futures when they step foot into high school”.

He said special privacy measures would apply to pre-university students. Those who are minors will have different default settings to limit publicly viewable profile information and unwanted communications.

Commenters on The Register website speculated that it would be just a matter of time before six-year-olds and younger kids could join the network, to help with recruitment of “new workers to push coal wagons” and to work in IT sweatshops.

The Register story raised another LinkedIn problem: the endorsement feature, which was criticised for allowing members to endorse one another for skills they might not have.

The writer invited members to endorse his invented llama wrestling prowess to “highlight the silliness of the whole endorsements caper”.

Social networking, at which New Zealanders apparently excel, has been receiving bad press recently.

University of Michigan researchers last week published results of a study of young adults showing the more they used Facebook the less satisfied they were with life.

Ray Delany, president of the Institute of IT professionals and a user of both Facebook and LinkedIn, says you get out what you put in to social networking.

“I use Facebook for keeping in touch with family and LinkedIn for business contacts,” Delany says.

“If you tend to have an anxious and negative attitude towards life I think social media will reinforce that. Equally if you have a sunny and carefree disposition it will reinforce that.

“It has more to do with your personality than it has with the technology.”

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