Look at duties, hours and pay to protect teens from work dangers.

What Are the Dangers of Teen Employment?

by Gail Sessoms

Teens work part-time and full-time jobs to earn money for different reasons. Teens work to have spending money, help out at home or save for college or other goals. Teens work before and after school, on weekends and during summer vacation. Some teens work a few hours a week, while others work the maximum hours allowed by labor laws. Although employment has some benefits for teens, you probably want to explore the disadvantages and dangers before making decisions about employment for your teen.

Teen Employment

Teenagers who work have opportunities to learn new skills, improve their self-confidence and increase independence and responsibility. Working teens meet new people, engage in new experiences and develop the life skills that help them navigate in the broader world. Teen employment can help after graduation with references and work experience that leads to higher pay. The advantages for working teens seem impressive. However, the benefits might not outweigh the negatives. For instance, much of the employment available for teens involves low-skill jobs that pay minimum wage or less. In addition to the chance that a teen might work long hours at a boring job for little pay, there are dangers inherent in teen employment.

Safety Hazards

Safety is an important consideration for working teens. Labor laws aimed at protecting young workers prohibit the types of work teens can perform. However, according to the website of the Society of Safety Engineers, teens have a high rate of workplace injuries, even though the jobs they hold are less dangerous and they usually work fewer hours. Work in retail stores and restaurants exposes teens to potential hazards. Employed teens might be exposed to adults and others who have unhealthy or illegal habits, such as smoking, drug and alcohol use, reckless driving, sexual experimentation and other undesirable behaviors.

Educational Performance

Parents and educators often see the negative affects employment can have on a teen’s education. Some teens arrive at school tired from work schedules, spend less time on homework and studying, participate less in extracurricular activities and often are reluctant to use school resources, such as after-school tutoring, for help. The longer hours a teen works, the more likely his educational performance will suffer, according to the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension website.

Social and Family Life

Teens who work often spend less time with friends and family. Working teens often bow out of social engagements and stop participating in once-favored activities. Your working teen might be getting less exercise and experiencing stress and fatigue. According to the National Institutes of Health website, in a 2010 review of several teen employment studies, some psychologists became concerned that working teens might be deprived of that critical developmental period when adolescents are free of adult responsibilities and stressors.


Parents who follow certain recommendations can control or prepare for many of the negative effects of teen employment. Consider your teen’s age, maturity and school performance when deciding if she can work. Teens who work few hours, such as 20 per week or less, at steady employment tend to fare better in all areas of concern, according to the National Institutes of Health site. Investigate potential workplaces with your teen and discuss the type of work required, hours and pay. Research state and federal child labor laws together. Look at other options, such as volunteer work. Encourage your teen to find employment that relates to his future career goals. Establish with your teen that school and family are her most important, and employment is secondary to education, health, socialization, safety and future goals.

About the Author

Gail Sessoms, a grant writer and nonprofit consultant, writes about nonprofit, small business and personal finance issues. She volunteers as a court-appointed child advocate, has a background in social services and writes about issues important to families. Sessoms holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in liberal studies.

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