What used to be a common sighting—teens working in fast food restaurants, helping pack bags at the grocery store, and slinging coffee—has changed in the Midwest over the past decade. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the number of teens aged 16-19 working a part-time job during the school year dropped 18 percent in 10 years.
In South Dakota, minors under the age of 16 may not work more than four hours per school day or 20 hours per school week, later than 10 p.m. on a school night, more than eight hours per non-school day, or 40 hours per non-school week.
But what if your teen is eager to work during the school year? Should you let them? Here are some pros and cons to help you decide.
Learning New Skills
Part-time jobs teach teens skills they will continue to use throughout their lives. This includes things like interviewing, responsibility, problem solving, and customer service.
Sense of Accomplishment
Working part-time can be very empowering to a teen. They gain a sense of personal achievement and accomplishment while excelling in an environment away from their parent/s or guardian/s, which will help pave the way to adulthood.
Ability to Manage Finances
Teens who earn their own money gain an appreciation for its value. This allows them to reflect on their spending versus saving habits, which can translate to future successes.
An Opportunity to Explore
Working a part-time job gives teens the opportunity to explore careers and industries while in high school, preparing them for college and/or future decisions.
Researchers for the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found that students who worked fewer than 20 hours per week had an average GPA of 3.13, while nonworking students had an average GPA of 3.04.
Loss of Relationships
Building relationships is an important part of being a teenager. Those students who work during the school year tend to miss out on hanging out with friends and family in their downtime.
In addition to the workload of school, a part-time job can easily add to the stress teenagers are facing throughout the day. While the BLS found students working fewer than 20 hours to be more successful in academia, teens who worked more than 20 hours a week had much lower GPAs averaging 2.95.
Increased Risk of Substance Abuse
The additional responsibilities, stressful environments, and extra disposable income may lead teens to make poor decisions.
Exposure to Exploitation
Teens are often naive and inexperienced, which leaves them open to unfair treatment in the workplace. This exposure to exploitation can give adolescents a negative impression of work in general.
When students are working during the school year, the day leaves little room for other activities. Opportunities in sports, clubs, and other extracurricular activities are typically turned down.