Teenagers and Part-Time Jobs: Benefits, Drawbacks and Tips
Adolescence is that difficult period of time when carefree children transition to responsible adults… we hope. That is the goal, after all, for teens to develop into mature, productive, responsible members of the community. One method for assisting this transition is obtaining part-time employment. A job can help teenagers better develop their identities, obtain increased autonomy, achieve new accomplishments, develop work experience, and become more independent from their parents.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 50 percent of American teenagers hold informal jobs, such as babysitting or yard work, by age 12. Boys tend to begin their jobs at younger ages and work more hours than girls. By age 15, nearly two-thirds of American teens have had some kind of employment. By the time teens graduate from high school, 80% will have held a part-time job at some time during the school year. The average high school student works 20 hours per week, and about 10% work full time (35 hours or more).
There are many obstacles to teens obtaining employment. Finding reliable transportation is critical, and that can be difficult if the job is not close by and the teen’s parent(s) work. Fighting stereotypes that employers have about adolescents, such as poor attitudes or lack of skills, can be challenging. In this particular economy, there aren’t very many job opportunities for teens.
Teens want to work for a variety of reasons, but more than half report their involvement in work is motivated by the desire to buy things. Typically, teens spend their money on car expenses, recreational expenses, clothing, educational expenses, saving for college, and helping their families with living expenses (e.g., rent, groceries).
Researchers have studied and debated the benefits and drawbacks of teens and part-time jobs for more than 2 decades. Many researchers, including those on government panels like the National Commission on Youth, praise part-time work and say it contributes to the transition from youth to adulthood. Other studies have found significant negative consequences to students working over 20 hours a week. We will take a close look at both.
Benefits of Teens Holding a Part-Time Job
There are many benefits to adolescents obtaining employment, including:
- Obtain valuable work experiences, which are excellent for a resume.
- Learn how to effectively manage finances. Even if the teen is simply using their earnings to pay for their own expenses, they will learn to budget between clothes, movies, and car expenses.
- May provide networking possibilities and set a child on a rewarding lifetime career path.
- Provide constructive use of free time. An after-school job can also provide adult supervision, especially if you work longer hours than those in a typical school day. Employment gives teens less time to engage in risky behaviors.
- Learn time management skills.
- Form good work habits.
- Gain useful, marketable skills such as improving their communication, learning how to handle people, developing interview skills and filling out job applications.
- Instill new confidence, sense of responsibility and independence.
Drawbacks of Teens Holding a Part-Time Job
There are also negative consequences of teen employment that may outweigh the positive benefits, such as:
- Less time for homework. Working students may not have or make the time to complete their work.
- Higher rates of absenteeism and less school involvement. Employment may place constraints on the student’s study and sleep time. Fatigue or lack of preparation for the day’s academic activities may discourage the working teen from going to school and a job may take the place of extracurricular activities.
- Lower grades in school. Students who work more than 20 hours a week have grade point averages that are lower than other students who work 10 or less hours a week.
- More likely to use drugs and alcohol. Research suggests that substance abuse is higher for students who work 20 or more hours per week.
- Development of negative views of work itself. Early entry into a negative or harsh work environment may encourage negative views of work. This would depend greatly on the maturity level of the teenager and the type of job obtained.
- Increased stress. Balancing work and school can prove to be too much for any student.
Research seems to suggest that students that work 10 hours or less a week gain the benefits of employment, while students that work over 20 hours a week suffer the negative consequences of work mentioned above. Other factors that affect how students handle employment and school life include the intensity and difficulty of the work done.
Summer employment is an excellent alternative, as it does not interfere with schooling and provides teens with a constructive use of their free time. It allows adolescents to garner all the benefits of employment without overtaxing their busy school schedules. Teens should begin looking for summer employment during Spring Break. Possible jobs for teens are: landscaping, delivering newspapers, babysitting, retail stores (such as grocery stores or clothing stores), movie theaters, working at a theme park, being a camp counselor, lifeguarding at a pool, and dog walking.
The U.S. Department of Labor sets the minimum age for employment at 14. It also limits the number of hours worked by minors under the age of 16. However, minimum age requirements do not apply to minors employed by their parents or guardian. Youths of any age may also deliver newspapers; perform in radio, television, movie, or theatrical productions; and babysit or perform other minor duties around a private home. Laws regulating employment of minors vary among states and U.S. territories, for example, many states require youth to obtain an employment and/or age certificate prior to being hired. Many times these certificated are issued by the school, but you should contact your state’s Department of Labor for more information.
How Parents Can Help Working Teens
Before your teen applies for employment, be sure to discuss the pros and cons with him or her, as well as the responsibilities associated with a job. You may also want to agree to a job on a trial basis, such as “you can work x number of hours a week this grading period and then we will decide if you can keep working, based on your grades.” There are several things that you as a parent can do for your teen to help ease the stress associated with juggling school, work, and family life:
- Come to a consensus about how you expect your teen to use his or her income. Will they be helping out with family finances? Would you like them to begin saving for college? Reaching a consensus will help to avoid later conflicts about money. Prepare a budget with your child, setting limits on spending and enforcing a percentage-of- paycheck-into-savings policy with which you’re both comfortable.
- Create a daily or weekly schedule with your teen that highlights the time that they spend working and the time they spend on homework and other school-related activities.
- Set up family time periodically. This could be once a week or month and is a time where you and your teen can reconnect through conversations, game playing, or family outings.
- Teach your teen practical ways to manage adverse situations on their jobs as well as in school.
- Teach your teen effective ways to manage the many demands that are made on their time. As they move closer to adulthood it will be necessary to manage many demanding roles as their responsibilities increase. This is a good time to learn how to use their time and resources wisely.
- Most importantly, be supportive.
Part-time jobs can be a wonderful experience, with the right supervision and parental guidance.