LinkedIn announced plans this week to open its pearly gates of career-networking to teenagers.
The social networking site for professionals unveiled its new University Pages, which it says can be an interface for high school students to communicate with university admission services. In addition, LinkedIn dropped the minimum age to start a profile to 14, from 18, in the U.S.
More than 200 schools, including New York University and the University of Michigan, already have University Pages, says LinkedIn, and the company plans to give access to thousands more in the coming weeks. Students can browse the university pages for news updates, submit questions, and "check out notable alumni," says the site.
The aim is to help students decide where to apply for college, and to encourage them to begin building their resumes with activities, honors, test scores, and more. "Smart, ambitious students are already thinking about their futures when they step foot into high school," said LinkedIn.
But is high school too soon to start compiling a career resume? Callie Beusman at Jezebel thinks so. "[T]he idea of a 14-year-old networking with a variety of adults who have followed 'diverse professional paths' makes me want to set up a shrine to the lost Spirit of Youth," she says. "Upon it, I will place a lanyard, a Frisbee, and like 12 troll dolls. RIP adolescence. I miss when the only thing laying siege upon you was sexting."
Tech Crunch's Josh Constine agrees. "Childhood used to be a time of self-exploration, but the Internet is pushing kids to define themselves early and put that facade on display," he writes.
But LinkedIn's push into the teen market is only the latest development in a kid-prep trend that stretches back decades. Students and their families already spend something like $1 billion a year on SAT prep courses, points out George Anders at Forbes. And over a quarter of college admissions officers already look at applicants' online profiles, according to a 2012 study by Kaplan.
"[I]t isn’t LinkedIn or any other social network that’s pressuring kids to dabble in internships, student clubs, and the other pre-professional gateway drugs that Constine is so concerned about," says Slate's Will Oremus. "It’s the college admissions process itself, which, if memory serves, already requires you to build a resumé."
Indeed, students might want to give college admissions officers something to look at other than pictures of themselves partying on Facebook. In the Kaplan study, 35 percent of officers said they found information that had a negative impact on the applications.
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