Should Teens Have A Summer Job?

teen working first job

If you think back to your own teen-age summers, the memories could very well be peppered with seasonal jobs that offered up your first taste of life in the workforce. Maybe you scored a primo gig at the mall (hello, air conditioning) or donned a fast food uniform. Either way, you finally felt like you had some independence by making your own cash.

Despite our own personal history with high school jobs, today's teens are less likely to pursue one. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, less than a third of American teens have pursued summer work in recent years, and that trend is expected to continue, even decline, in the years ahead. Currently they project only 26 percent of teens will hold a summer job in the year 2024.

With this decline, it begs the question, do these kids know something we didn't? Is the summer job a bad thing?

According to an expert who chatted with SheKnows, not at all.

A summer job teaches responsibility, educates young people on matters of finance and time management, and gives them the opportunity to build themselves up, knowing they can be productive members of the workforce.

"They learn about the importance of being a team player," says parenting expert and adolescent psychologist Dr. Barbara Greenberg in an interview with the site. "This is a valuable skill throughout life."

Not only that, but an article that ran on Quartz suggests that teens should go after jobs that have very few perks -- the less glamorous the better. In essence -- instead of landing a plush gig at a relative's office, they propose that manning a drive-thru window or doing something that really gets their hands dirty builds more character.

teen working first job
Credit: iStock / monkeybusinessimages

"The lessons are huge," said Richard Weissbourd, a lecturer and researcher at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, in an interview with Quartz. "You see how hard people work, how rude and unthinking people can be to them. It's a real lesson in how to treat people."

Considering the bad rap teens get for being discourteous or self-centered, we can see how this could perhaps be greater motivation to be a good person to folks from all walks of life. Hey, maybe they'll even have more respect for the grind their parents' endure each and every day to provide the best quality of life possible for their family.

As a parent, if you're still not quite sure about sending your kid out into the working world, there are ways to start instilling a similar sense of responsibility at an early age. Apps like BusyKid give moms, dads, and other family members the chance to assign tasks to a child, along with a value earned for finishing each one. Much like the real world, your kiddo can earn a weekly paycheck delivered on Friday. From their the app also allows the child to choose how to use their hard-earned cash -- whether that's saving, donating, investing, or buying a coveted item.

So the next time your teen gives you a list of reasons why applying for summer employment is a bad idea, arm yourself with the ways in which it can be a life-changing experience. There's truly no job too small to make an impact on their future.

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