By: Christine Henderson
With more than 200 million members, LinkedIn is an invaluable resource for companies and professionals. LinkedIn allows employers to post job opportunities and recruit potential employees through the site. Job seekers can upload resumes, connect with coworkers and peers and discuss industry news and trends.
With a required minimum age of 18, LinkedIn used to be reserved for adults entering the job market. But now, the network’s services are available to much younger users. LinkedIn recently dropped its age limit to 14 for users in the U.S.
Good for the site – and its members
LinkedIn’s interest in the younger demographic is largely profit-based. Though most of LinkedIn’s capital comes from fees charged to recruiters, college students represent a significant number of LinkedIn users – around 30 million. LinkedIn projects similar growth among younger members – who will then likely stick with the site as they transition through college into the job market.
LinkedIn’s lower age limit opens up the site as a resource for college-bound teens. In fact, the move was accompanied by the addition of a new “University Pages” feature that will make it easier for teens to connect with colleges and universities that catch their attention – even before the application process begins.
Over 200 schools have already signed up for University Pages, which allows users to follow school updates as well as research the school’s academic programs, graduation statistics, and alumni employment. Students can also communicate with college admissions staff and alumni through the network.
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Can LinkedIn help break down the digital divide?
As more companies and institutions move to the Web, online literacy is increasingly important for young adults. Teens with broadband Internet access at home tend to have better grades and higher graduate rates than those who don’t. And knowing how to navigate the Web – outside Netflix, Twitter and Facebook – can help teens explore long-term goals and career paths.
But not all teens have equal access to the Internet. The U.S. Census reports a 27.1 point percentage gap between groups with the highest and lowest rates of home Internet access .This “digital divide” has a negative effect – in terms of grades, graduation rates, and overall success – on teens who lack Internet access at home.
Organizations across the country are banding together to combat the digital divide and increase Internet access. Nonprofit group Connect2Compete is working to make high-speed Internet service and computers more affordable. And Internet providers like Verizon Internet are getting involved, too. Verizon has partnered with the International Society for Technology Education to promote online literacy for students at school and at home.
LinkedIn’s lower minimum age could also help minimize the digital divide. If teachers and counselors help students navigate the network at school, more students will gain access to the site – and learn how to better utilize the Internet for their academic and professional goals.
Creating a LinkedIn profile helps teens build valuable skills – like how to write a resume, how to communicate professionally online, and how to effectively brand themselves, both for college admissions and for future jobs. We’ll have to wait to see how – and if – it affects the digital divide.
Christine Henderson is a freelance tech copywriter and public relations specialist who specializes in issues related to career development and transformation. You can contact her directly via email.