Part-time jobs during high school may teach teenagers a lot of great lessons, but not if the hours are too long. Though jobs teach teens responsibility and other real-world skills, this study tied a 20+ hours per week work schedule with lower grades, less time spent on homework and other school-related activities, diminished attention in class, and an increase in substance abuse.
While the study authors admitted that working during high school “is unlikely to turn law-abiding teenagers into felons or cause students to flunk out of school,” the results were significant enough to raise a red flag for parents with college admission high on their list and/or zero tolerance for drug and alcohol experimentation. The good news is that for students working less than 20 hours per week, the negative effects just weren’t there.
Keeping your teen’s working hours fewer than 20 can also help alleviate the negative health effects of stress and sleep deprivation that can result from an intense schedule.
The bottom line for parents? College-bound or otherwise, keep the hours under 20 and avoid jobs that are unsupervised and unskilled. If college is the goal, help your teen find a job that inspires them to develop their passions and interests. If you can’t, and finances allow, encourage them to dive into an extra-curricular or volunteer activity instead: these can demonstrate the same attractive qualities — discipline, time management and commitment — as a job. Even a child who must work to support their family can still use that to their advantage on a college application.
In the end, choosing a job carefully, limiting the hours and sticking with it, might help kids stay focused on school, find a passion and stand out from their peers on their college apps.