Parents often wonder whether their child is ready to get a job. One way to answer this question is to check on the labor laws that affect children and youths. For example, according to federal law, teens must be at least 15 to work as a lifeguard, and even then they must have had specific training. You might also need to check on your state's laws.
Federal law limits the number of hours young people can work, even during the summer, and it also limits how late at night teens can work. The U.S. Department of Labor has more information on laws related to child labor at its website.
Even when teens are legally able to work in certain summer jobs, you might want to reassure yourself that they are ready to be good team players in the workplace. Consider these questions:
How will they get to work on time and get home after work? Do they need a car?
Are they able to follow directions well?
Are they physically able to do the job they're considering? A young teen, for example, might be better suited to babysitting than landscaping.
Do they need special certification to get the job they want?
Should they be focusing on summer school or private tutoring during the summer, rather than working full-time?
Will they be able to balance family vacations, sports practices, or other planned activities with the responsibilities of a summer job?
Safety is also an important issue for young workers. Workers younger than age 24 have one of the highest rates of injury. Here are some tips for safe work practices for teens:
Teens need sun protection and need to stay hydrated. Many teens find outdoor work during the summer months, such as pool maintenance or lawn mowing. They should wear hats and sunscreen when in the sun and drink lots of water throughout the day.
Make sure you have your teens' contact information and schedule. Know when to expect teens home after work and how to reach their workplace in case of emergency.
Teens need to avoid hazardous work. For example, by federal law teens are not allowed to work in freezers, other than to go in to get items such as food. Encourage your teen to avoid taking on duties that are hazardous or dangerous to his or her health or well-being.
Teen workers should report unsafe conditions to their boss. Let your kids know that everyone has the right to a safe working environment—for example, that areas at work that could cause someone to slip and fall should be cleaned up, whether that means picking up items blocking a walkway or mopping up spills.
Show teens how to reduce the chance of electrocution. Remind them to keep power tools and any machinery away from water and to never touch a downed power line.
Teach teens about safe lifting practices. Sooner or later, your teen will have to pick up something heavy. Talk about when to ask for help and how to lift safely (by using the knees instead of the back).
Once you’ve discussed all of this (and more), keep checking in with your teens as the summer progresses. Make sure that eating, sleeping, and day-to-day care aren't suffering while they're holding down a job. Most teen summer jobs are great experiences, and you can help ensure this by keeping the lines of communication open between you and your children