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Teenage Jobs: The Pros and Cons

Written by Evolve's Behavioral Health Content Team​:

Alyson Orcena, LMFT, Melissa Vallas, MD, Shikha Verma, MD, Ellen Bloch, LCSW, Lianne Tendler, LMFT, Megan Johnston, LMFT Meet The Team >

Preparing to Launch

Most parents agree that one of the primary objectives of raising a child is preparing them for life in the real world. After teaching basic moral ethical behavior – be kind, be honest, always say please and thank you – the next thing parents do is strive to instill some sort of work ethic into their children. When they’re ready to leave home, parents want their kids ready for whatever life has to offer them. Since most people on earth have to work for a living, they should be ready – and the preparation should start at home.

So: aside from household chores, how do you teach your children about work and the value of a solid work ethic?

Once kids reach their teenage years, one way to teach them about what working is like is to let them get out there and get a job. 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 general rule, as established by 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. They’ll respond to new life experiences in their own way. When considering allowing your teen to get a job, the main thing to consider is whether or not the job will negatively affect their 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 can help both parents and teenagers start thinking seriously about the reality of teenage jobs:

Pros

Jobs help kids develop a sense of responsibility.

  • Jobs help kids develop a greater sense of self.
  • Teens that work a reasonable amount of hours – less than 15 hours a week – get better grades than teens who don’t work.
  • Jobs help kids learn to manage money and understand personal finance.
  • Jobs help kids transition from youth to adulthood

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 to much – more than 15 hours a week—get lower grades than kids who don’t work at all.
  • Teenagers who work have money to spend on things which aren’t good for them, such as alcohol, tobacco, or drugs.

Is Working Good for Teenagers?

Research shows that, in general, working has positive developmental effects on teenagers. There’s a catch, however: too much work is not good, and too little work doesn’t yield significant results. Data shows that a moderate amount of work – less than twenty hours a week – is the most beneficial. 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. They need to monitor the number of working hours make sure their teenager is not overdoing it.

In addition, parents need to ensure 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. Finally, it’s vital for everyone involved to remember that learning about work and developing a work ethic are not the be-all and end-all of adolescence. They’re parts of a bigger picture. With that in mind, if a teenager does work, it’s best for parents to help them find a healthy balance between work, play, and school.

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Our Behavioral Health Content Team

We are an expert team of behavioral health professionals who are united in our commitment to adolescent recovery and well-being.

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