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Let’s Talk Tech: LinkedIn Lowers Age Limit

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This week: LinkedIn for Little Ones

Finish algebra homework, check. Read the new Highlights for kids, check. Listen to Diggy Simmon’s mixtape, check. Connect with CEO’s on LinkedIn, check?

On Monday, LinkedIn launched University Pages, which will give ambitious high school students an opportunity to explore schools, communicate with faculty, and connect with alumni in an effort to decide what universities and college programs fit their needs. To accomplish this, LinkedIn lowered the age limit to 14 in the United States.

Many adults may feel like LinkedIn was the last vestige of social network maturity and the only place to develop professional relationships online. And parents will assuredly ask whether it is safe for their high school freshmen to build relationships with strange adults.

Well, before you jump the gun and automatically label this a bad idea consider that LinkedIn’s new University Pages is a great opportunity for low income students –many of whom are African American and Latino– who do not have the means to physically travel to different campuses as they try to make a decision about what school they want to attend.

While it shouldn’t be considered an equal substitute for campus tour visits, hopeful college students can seek out alumni and ask them about their majors, the caliber of the professors, inquire about the career paths available for such graduates and even solicit mentors. In addition, LinkedIn is putting safeguards in place to assure that minors have different default settings to limit publicly viewable profile information and unwanted communications.

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Nevertheless, parents and professionals alike need to be diligent when dealing with children on social networking sites…even LinkedIn. Here are a few tips to make sure all communications remain above board.

Parents: Stay Involved: Parents should always monitor their teen’s activity on social media and stay aware of every person the teen contacts as well as the people who contact them back. Also, know your teen’s passwords and usernames. It may seem overprotective, but if you have the time, you should sit with your child whenever they are talking to an adult online. Interact with your child about the people they talk to and the topics they talk about. Let the teen know that you are fascinated by them and their interests and not just trying to police their activities.

Adults: Keep it professional: Athletic and extracurricular activities and interests are safe, but stay away from conversation about your personal life or theirs. Although it may seem harmless, such conversations can easily get out of hand fast or become misconstrued. Advise teens about majors and career paths but avoid doling out opinions outside of that realm.

Teens: Trust No One But Your Parents: Ask a parent or guardian first before beginning communication with anyone online. Never give out your home address, phone numbers, email address, social network handles, and even the name of your school without first talking to your parent. Be wary of anyone who wants to meet with you in person. And if their exchanges online make your uncomfortable or become sexual in nature report them to LinkedIn’s Safety Center and the authorities.