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Advice for Teens Thinking of Joining LinkedIn
By: Christine Geraci
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Young and determined uber-nerds, rejoice: You no longer have to wait to be 18 to start networking on LinkedIn.
LinkedIn's recent update to its terms of service changes the cut-off age for membership from 18 to 13 and older, depending on your country. Based on national ages at which you can legally work, you now only have to be 14 to join LinkedIn in the U.S., Canada, Germany, Spain, Australia, and South Korea, 16 in The Netherlands, 18 in China, and 13 everywhere else. 
This is a rather wonderful strategic move on the part of Linkedin, which rightly recognizes its future lies in catering to college students, the most rapidly growing sector of its membership base. Further, it's downright smart to allow colleges to create "university pages" that help prospectives explore university programs and connect with notable alumni. 
Now, before anybody starts hyperventilating about their LinkedIn feeds getting flooded with tween angst and puckered-lip selfies, take heart: First, different privacy rules apply for minors who join the social network.
Next, and most importantly, this is LinkedIn. Minors are allowed to act their age — just not here.
Why? Well, dear under-aged overachievers, the implications of misusing this social network can and will reach far beyond the loss of connections. Colleges and potential employers (the good ones, at least) are watching. If you don't understand basic common courtesies that come with social networking, they will notice. And that could be bad if you, say, dreamed of attending a certain college or landing a job with a certain company. 
This is not the place to do what you might be doing on Instagram, Snapchat, or Facebook.
This is a place for your talents to shine. Talk about what you love most. What are you passionate about? How are you developing that passion both inside and outside of school? How are you using that passion to serve others? Don't just tell, SHOW, using pictures and video.
This is a place to talk about the three S's: SKILLS, SCHOOL and SERVICE. Tell people what you're good at (math? music? sports?). Explain how those skills are helping you succeed in school. And if you (hopefully) apply those skills within organizations and events that serve your community, play that up as well.
This is a place for tasteful visuals. Nothing too silly or suggestive. What do I mean by "suggestive"? Well, I'm not your parent, but it's a fact: posting "sexy" pictures of yourself, or pictures that depict you engaging in illegal activity, or pictures of you bullying or enabling the bullying of others, will at best tarnish your reputation on this social network. 
This is a place where you ABSOLUTELY SHOULD friend your parents, teachers, and other positive adult role models. These are the people that can help connect you to colleges and employers who want YOUR skills and talents. Don't think they're "cool" enough? Get over it. It's not about being cool. It's about networking with connections that can help you accomplish something positive for yourself and others. 
This is the model from which you should mold your other social presences. Perhaps I'm too optimistic here, but I'd love to think that LinkedIn allowing minors to join might help pave the way toward better education and understanding of the pros and cons of social networking. 
What advice would you give a minor thinking about joining LinkedIn? 

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About the Author
Christine Geraci is the Social Media/Promotions Specialist at MVP Health Care in Schenectady, NY. Connect with her on Twitter @christinegeraci.
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