The Pros and Cons of Afterschool Jobs for Teens

An afterschool job can teach your teen responsibility, but there are drawbacks to employment.
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Although an afterschool job seems like a time-honored tradition, the number of teens who work has actually fallen in recent years. The decline in the teenage workforce may be partially due to the difficulty many teens have finding work.

Other teens may be opting out of working while in high school because they're schedules are already overflowing. Between sports practices and long hours studying, there might not be much time leftover to get a part-time job.

 

While there are some potential perks to working while in high school, research shows there are some drawbacks as well. Clearly, an afterschool job isn't going to work for all teens.

If you're thinking of letting your teen enter the workforce, you should consider the potential risks as well the benefits. 

The Pros of an Afterschool Job

An afterschool job can be good for young people. Here are some of the biggest benefits your teen might gain:

  • Financial skills. With support from you, a paycheck can be an opportunity for your teen to learn how to effectively manage finances. Teach your teen to establish a budget so she can practice saving for big ticket items. 
  • Insight into a future job. A good job can give your teen valuable insight into what she may want to do after high school. She may discover she enjoys working with people or she might decide that she wants to own her a business. If nothing else, a part-time job gives your teen valuable work experience that she can list on future job applications.
  • Less time to get in trouble. If your teen heads straight from school to a job, it shortens the amount of free time she has to engage in risky behaviors. She'll be less likely to be bored when a job keeps her busy.
  • Life skills. A job could instill confidence and independence in your teen. If she works with customers, it can teach her how to handle difficult situations and improve her communication skills. 
  • Work skills. An afterschool job will help your teenager gain work skills—such as how to complete a job application, how to do well in an interview, and how to work for a supervisor.

The Cons of an Afterschool Job

There are definitely some risks teens face when becoming employed. Here are some of the biggest cons to working after school: 

  • Less time to study. Research shows that students who work more than 20 hours a week have lower grade point averages than students who work 10 hours or less a week. Your teen may have to stay up late to finish her homework or she might put less effort into school when she's employed. 
  • Negative impression of work. Working for a disorganized employer or an untrained supervisor could give your teen a negative impression of employment. Unfortunately, studies show teens may become victims of sexual harassment when they become employed. 
  • Missed opportunities. Being obligated to work a shift could take away from the high school “experience.”  It could be very difficult to participate in a sports team, drama production or volunteer work if she has a part-time job.
  • More stress. Working too many hours could cause your teen to become stressed out. The purpose of a job is to give your child a little more freedom by earning her own money. If she never has time to spend that money having fun, what’s the point?
  • Increased risk of substance abuse. Studies show kids who work are actually at increased risk of drinking alcohol or using drugs. The extra spending money and the added responsibilities may lead some teens to make poorer choices.

Deciding whether to let your teen get a job isn't a decision you should make lightly. If you're on the fence, encourage your teen to start with a summer job. Summer employment won’t interfere with school and it can keep your teen busy during the summer months. If a summer job goes well, your teen may be ready to work during the school year.  

Sources

Greene KM, Staff J. Teenage employment and career readinessNew Directions for Youth Development. 2012;2012(134):23-31. 

Mortimer JT. The Benefits and Risks of Adolescent Employment. The prevention researcher. 2010;17(2):8-11.​

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