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Balancing work and school: The effects of teen employment on grades, sleep, and relationships

[Apr. 24, 2023: JD Shavit, The Brighter Side of News]

For many teenagers, the first job experience is a rite of passage. Whether it is as a fast-food cashier, barista, or lifeguard, the experience can be transformative. (CREDIT: Creative Commons)

For many teenagers, the first job experience is a rite of passage. Whether it is as a fast-food cashier, barista, or lifeguard, the experience can be transformative. While some families emphasize the benefits of work experience, others are worried about the negative impact it may have on sleep, schedules, and grades.

A new national poll by the University of Michigan Health C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health suggests that finding a job that meets logistical considerations, with schedules and transportation being the most important, may be the key to minimizing any negative consequences.


The poll found that more than three-quarters of parents of working teens believe that having a formal job has a positive impact on their teen’s money management, while self-esteem ranked high on the pros list for 70% of parents, and 63% see social benefits. Parents of teens who don’t work express concerns that having a job could negatively impact their teen’s grades, involvement in activities, sleep, or social life.

Logistics topped parents’ list as the most important consideration for whether a job is appropriate for their teen, with more than four in five saying it depends on whether hours fit with their teen’s schedule and two-thirds worried about the convenience of getting them to and from the job.


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More than half of parents also wanted a job to provide a learning experience for their child. Being too busy and transportation issues were the top barriers parents listed for preventing their teen from getting a job while fewer referred to a lack of job availability, having to help at home, school, or health.

“Families should have upfront conversations about logistical factors when teens are thinking about looking for a job, and certainly before they make any commitment,” said Mott Poll co-director Sarah Clark, M.P.H. “Teens need to be realistic about time needed for schoolwork, as well as extracurricular activities, family commitments, and planned social events in order to prevent the new responsibility from negatively impacting their grades, health, and other parts of their life.”


Among parents of teens who work, nearly half also say their teen has experienced workplace problems, with top issues including getting as many hours as promised, having to work more hours or later hours, and disagreements with coworkers or managers. Fewer reported unsafe situations in the workplace and incorrect or delayed pay.

“Many teens will feel anxious about being in an unfamiliar situation, having someone evaluate their performance, and dealing with more demands on their time. Parents need to continually assess whether the job is having a negative burden on their teen,” Clark said. “Teens may feel overwhelmed by some of the new challenges that come in a workplace setting. Parents can help provide guidance on working through conflicts and how to communicate about them.”


Just one in three parents also say they feel very informed about state laws for teen employment. “Parents with working teens should take steps to become knowledgeable about state laws for teen employment to ensure that their child's rights, education, and safety are protected,” Clark said.

Over half of parents of 18-year-olds in a national poll say their teen works, compared to a little more than two fifths of parents of teens ages 16-17 and 8% of parents of kids aged 14-15. (CREDIT: Jacob Dwyer, Michigan Medicine)

The poll report is based on responses from 1,017 parents with at least one child aged 14-18. Over half of parents of 18-year-olds say their teen has a formal job, compared to a little more than two-fifths of parents of teens ages 16-17 and 8% of parents of kids aged 14-15. More than a fourth of parents of teens with a formal job estimate their child works less than 20 hours a week.


Most parents say teens use their job money to pay for personal items, followed by savings. Less than a third say the pay goes towards activities. “Teen employment may be a good opportunity for some young people to earn their own money and help them learn to develop new skills, such as time and financial management, problem-solving, and teamwork,” Clark said.

Indeed, for many teenagers, the opportunity to work is seen as an important step towards financial independence and learning the value of money. It also provides an opportunity for them to develop a sense of responsibility and work ethic.

However, the benefits of teenage employment are not without risks. A study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found that young workers are at a higher risk for occupational injuries and illnesses than older workers. This is due in part to the fact that many of these jobs involve working with machinery, heavy equipment, and hazardous materials.

In addition to physical risks, working teenagers are also at risk of developing mental health issues. The stress of balancing schoolwork, extracurricular activities, and a part-time job can take a toll on their mental health. Moreover, they are also susceptible to workplace harassment and discrimination.

To mitigate these risks, parents and employers must take steps to ensure that working teenagers are protected from harm. This includes providing them with proper training, supervision, and protective equipment, as well as ensuring that they are not working excessive hours.


In addition, parents should encourage their children to communicate openly about their experiences at work and to seek help if they encounter any problems. They should also make sure that their children are aware of their rights and responsibilities as workers, including the right to a safe and healthy workplace.

“Teenagers should be encouraged to speak up and seek support from parents, teachers, or other trusted adults if they experience any problems at work,” said Clark. “It is important that they feel empowered to advocate for themselves and their peers.”

Overall, teenage employment can be a positive experience for many young people. However, it is important that parents and employers take steps to ensure that working teenagers are safe, healthy, and happy. By doing so, they can help young people develop valuable skills and experiences that will benefit them throughout their lives.

For more science news stories check out our New Discoveries section at The Brighter Side of News.


Note: Materials provided above by The Brighter Side of News. Content may be edited for style and length.


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