Should teenagers have jobs while in school?

Adnan asks: In some countries, teenagers have jobs while they are still students. Can you please tell me if you think this is a good idea?

Hi Adnan –


Great question.  Although I have to admit, I don’t know what countries don’t have teenagers who work while being students.  I think it’s a great idea, and have nothing against it.  With a couple of exceptions.


Firstly, I’m a big believer in education.  And it’s impossible for a teenager, or anyone else, to carry a full high-school or college courseload and do a fulltime job. Something has to give.  So if it’s financially possible, I’m all for having the education be the full-time commitment, and the job be part-time.  But if it’s absolutely necessary that the kid work full-time, then I’d want the education to be spread-out.  In other words, maybe they could cut their class-load in half, and just take two years to do what other students do in one.  It does no good for a kid to do a full courseload and only devote half the time they need to each of their classes.  Better to put all the work you need into history this year, and into algebra next year, for example.


Secondly, most of us live in a very fortunate time, when child labor has been outlawed.  But it still exists in some parts of the world.  Children can be enslaved, forced to do backbreaking work for little or no pay, because they have no power to fight back the way adults would.  This is morally wrong, and I’m completely against that.  So when you ask about “teenagers having jobs,” and I say I’m all for it, I mean jobs like helping out on the family farm, flipping burgers and waiting tables (that’s the job I’d like best!), counseling in camps or teaching sports, office or store jobs – something that is appropriate for their age.  And I especially want their parents to check the job out, and make very sure their kid is being treated fairly.  Otherwise, it’s exploitation – a big word for taking advantage of the weak.


Having a job can build self-esteem, and teach all sorts of great values to a teenager.  I just want to make sure we’re talking about that sort of job!


Great question, thanks!



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