I was surprised to recently learn that when my oldest son turns 14 in a few months, my teenager can legally get a job. I always thought you had to be 16 to get a job, but 14- and 15-year-olds can work as long as they work no more than three hours a day and 18 hours a week during the school year. Here are some pros and cons...
by Stacey Schifferdecker
Should Your Teen Get A Job?
I was surprised to recently learn that when my oldest son turns 14 in a few months, he can legally get a job. I always thought you had to be 16 to get a job, but 14- and 15-year-olds can work as long as they work no more than three hours a day and 18 hours a week during the school year. They also can’t work past 7:00 p.m. during the school year.
I don’t think Kegan is going to run out and start looking for a job when he turns 14, but it did start me thinking. In a couple years, he may want to get a job – should I let him? And if he doesn’t want one, should I make him get one anyway (if only to help pay for the increased car insurance costs when he turns 16)?
The Pros and Cons of Teen Jobs
There are arguments both for and against a teenager getting a job, especially during the school year.
- Jobs can teach teenagers work skills they will need their whole lives, such as how to fill out an application, how to interview well, how to work responsibly, and how to get along with co-workers and superiors
- Jobs can help teens feel more confident and independent
- Jobs help teens develop a sense of responsibility
- Students who work 10 to 15 hours a week during the school year earn higher grades than students who don’t work at all
- Jobs help teens learn to manage their money
- Jobs cab help teens explore potential career paths
- Teens who work more than 13 to 20 hours a week receive lower grades
- Teens who work find it difficult to keep up extracurricular activities and friendships
- Teens who work are more likely to use illegal drugs or alcohol
- Overworked teens sleep and exercise less and spend less time with their families
The question may come down to your individual child: Is my child ready for a job? Can my child handle working and still maintain good grades? Why does my child want to work?
Is My Child Ready for a Job?
In order to help you decide if your teen is ready to get a job, ask yourself these questions:
- Does my teen get out of bed in the morning without prodding?
- Does my teen shower and have good hygiene?
- Does my teen make good choices?
- Does my teen take responsibility for mistakes?
- Does my teen get along with other teens and with adults?
- Does my teen handle criticism?
- Does my teen have good time management skills?
Talk to your teen about why he or she wants a job and what your expectations are for
- Extracurricular activities
- Friends and family
- Money (how much your child will need to save versus spending and what expenses he or she will be responsible for)
If you still aren’t sure, consider letting your child work on a trial basis just to see how it goes. You could also let him or her try out regular volunteer work too. Last summer, Kegan was a Teen Volunteer at our local library. Not only did he have to fill out an application and go through an interview, but he also had regular job responsibilities and a time sheet to fill out. He received many of the benefits of a paying job but on a limited basis appropriate for his age.
Where to Look for a Job
So if you do decide to let your teen try out the working world, where can he or she go to find a job? Here are some ideas:
- School Guidance Counselor. He or she may know about local businesses that hire teens.
- Coaches, teachers, parents, and friends. Let everyone know you are job-hunting – you never know who might have a lead on the perfect job for you.
- Classified ads
- Organizations you have volunteered for. Maybe someday Kegan can parlay his summer volunteer time at the library into a part-time job.
Once your teen does find a job, monitor how it’s going and whether your teen seems able to handle the work along with everything else in his or her life. Is homework getting done and grades staying high? Is she enjoying the job? Does he have time for friends and family? If the job is too much, see if your teen can work fewer hours or cut back to a summer job only. A summer job can provide all the benefits of a year-round job without interfering with your child’s full-time job: school.
Stacey Schifferdecker is the happy but harried mother of three school-aged children—two boys and a girl. She is also a freelance writer, a Children’s Minister, a PTA volunteer, and a Scout leader. Stacey has a Bachelor’s degree in Communications and French and a Master’s degree in English. She has written extensively about parenting and education as well as business, technology, travel, and hobbies.
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