Many parents, convinced that their kids are destined for bright, bold futures, discourage their teens from working part time. Only about 27 percent of 16- and 17-year-olds hold jobs during the school year, and only half during the summer. In some cases, parents are right to avoid pushing their teens into the labor force. Studies have shown a link between working too many hours and higher dropout rates, not to mention a greater likelihood of delinquency, alcohol use, and other antisocial behaviors. But most data suggest that work benefits teens, as long as they don't do it too soon (age 16 or 10th grade is ideal) or too much (no more than 20 hours a week during the school year). "From learning the importance of showing up on time to benefiting from having a mentor, work gives kids excellent experiences," says Dr. Vazsonyi. Some other life lessons your kids may learn:
"I don't need so much stuff." Once they start working, many kids realize there are more important things than buying cool clothes and more CDs. A recent poll by Junior Achievement found than "saving for college" was the primary motivator for teens with summer jobs.
"I make time for what's important." One study by the University of Chicago found that part-time work didn't cut into the hours they spent studying. What's more, those who worked between 11 and 20 hours per week spent 2.4 fewer hours watching TV than kids without jobs.
"I can do anything." Work can be intimidating at first, but once kids get the hang of it, they gain confidence, which can last a lifetime. Teens who work are less likely to be unemployed as adults and more likely to have higher earnings than those who didn't, according to research by Loyola University in New Orleans.