Waiting tables, mowing lawns, babysitting, retail sales, camp staff, stockroom: how many of these summer jobs did you have in high school and college? What about the teens you know – are they working this summer? When I saw the headline that retail jobs that once filled the time of teenagers looking to make money during the summer are slowly dying, I wanted to take a look at the pros and cons of summer employment. There are fewer and fewer teens working during the summers. Part of the reason is economic: the percentage of teens working tends to decline during and after a recession, and often youth employment is hit quite hard and tends not to rebound quickly. In some other cases, perhaps it is the lack of need for spending money or the desire to not be “stressed” during the summer, perhaps driven by parents instead of teens themselves.
Besides the obvious financial benefits, what else are teens missing out on by not working in the summer?
Despite some research to the contrary, many of the recent studies of adolescent employment demonstrate relationships between teens working and outcomes such as less time watching TV, decreased teen violence, increase in school attendance the following year, and career identity. But context, hours, and levels of supervision appear to impact these relationships. In other words, long periods of stressful work in relatively unsupervised settings can have negative effects.
One of the most comprehensive studies of teen work was based on data from the Youth Development Study, out of the University of Minnesota. This study examined the types of work settings, the hours worked, and the consistency of work, and concluded that there is most certainly not one size fits all when it comes to working in high school. The study itself examined work in general, versus summer work specifically, but many of the conclusions still apply.
Perhaps it is the parents’ fault: some will decide that they don’t want their kids to have to work their summers away, as if the stress of having to babysit will upset their academic studies in the next school year. While working during the summer isn’t as carefree as laying out by the pool or playing video games, consider this from researchers in this field:
We conclude that moderate stressors at work during adolescence may teach teens valuable lessons…
For some fortunate teens (or unfortunate, depending on your perspective), there is little reason to work because parents provide every last penny for every consumption desire. However, consider the potential non-financial benefits of summer work:
….Much school and major “shopping” as well as occupational “floundering,” could possibly be avoided if young people’s work values were sufficiently formed to provide a basis for effective educational and career decision making. Some combination of paid jobs, internships, and volunteer jobs might encourage optimal career exploration and long-term benefits.
The summary of that statement is that summer jobs allow you to explore careers, experience real-life working environments, and become familiar with responsibility.
Finding a summer job is a trick, but there are a variety of options for summer employment. Likewise, teens today have the benefit of technology to help them find and/or create their own business opportunities for the summer. The benefit of the experience may be worth a little extra effort.