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The Pros and Cons of Teenage Jobs

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Preparing for Adult Life

Most parents and primary caregivers agree that one of the primary objectives of raising a child is preparing him or her for life out in the real world. Every family has its own set of values it passes on to its children. Some value empathy, some value respect, and some value kindness. Some value all these and more. Regardless of what the family’s moral and ethical code is, after these fundamental building blocks, almost all parents and primary caregivers strive to instill some sort of work ethic into their children. After all, just about everyone on earth has to work for a living, and no one wants this to come as a total surprise to their children. When the little birds are ready to leave the nest, parents want them to be ready for whatever life has to offer them. So, the question is: how do you teach your children about work and instill a solid work ethic in them? There are many answers to this question and there are many paths to personal responsibility. Once kids are old enough, one way to teach them about what working is like is to let them really do it: allow them to get out there and get a job. This is a common practice for many families. Specific laws vary from state to state, but most places in the U.S. allow young people to start working for wages (i.e., filling out tax paperwork and reporting income) during the early teenage years. The United States Department of Labor’s Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) establishes the minimum age for employment at age 14 and limits the number of hours and type of work for young people under age 16.

The Pros and Cons of Allowing a Teenager to Work

Every teenager is different and will respond to new and unique life experiences in their own way. When considering whether or not to allow your teenager to get a job, the main thing to think about is whether or not the job will negatively affect academic performance. If the answer is no and you feel your child can handle it, the next step is to talk it over, check the laws of your state, and let your teenager go see what’s out there.

The following list of pros and cons is meant to help both parents and teenagers start thinking seriously about the reality of teenage jobs:

Pros

Cons

  • Jobs can add stress to a child’s life.
  • Jobs can expose kids to people and situations they might not be ready for.
  • A teen working a job might feel like childhood is ending too soon.
  • Teens who work too much—more than 15 hours a week—get lower grades than kids who don’t work at all.
  • Teenagers who work have money that could possibly be spent on things that aren’t good for them, such as alcohol or tobacco.

Is Working Good for Teenagers?

Benefits of Having a Job as a Teenager

Research shows that, in general, working a job has positive developmental effects on the life of a teenager. There’s a catch, however: too much work is not good, and too little work doesn’t show positive results. Moderate, steady work proves the most beneficial route for teens who do work. That said, it’s extremely important for parents to be involved in the process: they need to visit the place of employment to make sure it has a good feel, and they need to monitor the number of hours worked to make sure their teenager is not working too many nights or weekends. In addition, parents need to be certain that their teenager is not doing hazardous work. The best guidelines for teenage work hours and teenage workplace safety can be found at the websites of the United States Department of Labor and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration.

Best Part-Time Jobs for Teenagers

There are plenty of reasons why teens should work. Taking on a part-time job as a teenager builds independence and teaches responsibility. Some of the benefits of having a job as a teenager include helping teens avoid depression and teaching work ethic and valuable life skills. Working in high school helps teenagers get a head start by building a resume from an early age. A job can be an opportunity for unhappy teens to find a sense of belonging as part of a team and helps all teenagers learn about the value of money and how much — or little —  a paycheck can cover. 

However, finding the right job can be crucial in helping a teen succeed at a part-time job. A teen should consider their natural strengths, as well as how far outside their comfort zone they’re willing to stretch. Dealing with customers can help a shy teen gain confidence, but it can also be a draining experience for one who’s naturally more introverted. Teens looking for a first job should consider aspects like the level of physical labor, interactions with customers, the size of the company, and the types of employees they see working at a potential workplace.

What Are the Best Places for Teenagers to Work?

There’s no shortage of summer jobs for teens. Increased business in the summertime means that many businesses are in desperate need of extra help. Some of the best seasonal part-time jobs for teenagers include: 

  • Coffee shops
  • Ice cream parlors
  • Movie theaters
  • Pools
  • Amusement parks
  • Jump parks
  • Landscaping companies
  • Babysitting
  • Pet-sitting

Many places like these want to hire teenagers to handle additional summer business. They’re often flexible with a teen’s schedule, and teenagers often enjoy working with peers of the same age. 

Many businesses also hire part-time workers year-round. When a teen is looking for a part-time job they hope to keep for the full school year, some of the best places for teenagers to work include stores, restaurants, warehouses, and hotels. 

How to Balance Work and School as a Teenager

Balancing work and school is the central consideration when it comes to the question: Should teenagers have jobs? Every teen is different; some achieve academic goals with apparent ease, while others have a harder time making good grades. Some teens have few commitments outside of class, while others have a heavy load of extracurriculars on top of their regular school hours. 

Successfully balancing work and school requires considering a teen’s needs and how much time they have to allocate to a job — without studies, homework, and downtime taking a hit. A teen can calculate the time they spend on homework and extracurriculars, identifying how much extra time they have in a given week to spare for work. They can use that target number to find a job with a manageable number of hours. 

Parents sometimes ask: At what age should a teenager get a job? As with other considerations, it depends on a teen’s maturity level, grades, and other responsibilities. If a teen wants to earn their own money and they’re doing well in school, they’re probably ready to take on a job at whatever age is legal in their state. 

What Are the Highest-Paying Teen Jobs?

Many teen jobs pay minimum wage, especially if a teen has no work experience. However, sometimes teens can find higher-paying positions, even if it’s their first job. Many employers in the food industry, like restaurants, coffee shops, and food trucks, allow teens to accept tips on top of their hourly wage, and tipped positions can pay handsomely. 

Jobs that provide a personalized service, like babysitting, pet-sitting, or house cleaning, can also pay significantly over minimum wage. The same is true of positions that require manual labor, like warehouse positions. Finally, a paid internship is another teen job option that can pay generously. 

Final Thoughts

Some parents are hesitant to let teens take on real-world responsibilities too quickly. But when it comes to the question of “What is the value of work for teenagers?” it’s clear that allowing a teen to take on the responsibility of a part-time job can bring lifelong benefits. Parents can support teens by guiding them to find a job that fits their personality and schedule. Teens who work learn valuable skills — including recognizing when they’ve taken on more than they can handle. Allowing a teenager to work while still in high school allows parents to help guide a teen to make smart adult choices before they’re out in the world on their own. 

Finally, when teenagers work it’s vital for everyone involved to remember that adolescence is about many things, and learning about work, developing a work ethic, and growing into adulthood are parts of a bigger picture. With that in mind, it’s best for a teenager to find a healthy balance between work, extracurricular activities, and school.

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