As summer approaches and the school year comes to a close, many teenagers will be searching for good summer jobs to make some money and keep themselves busy. There are many jobs for teenagers and numerous benefits for teens having a temporary summer job besides earning money, as it’s an excellent opportunity to build self-esteem, develop people skills, money smarts, become more independent, as well as increased respect and compassion for other people.
Even though 6 million American teenagers who hold jobs reap many benefits, there are risks to be considered as well. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, about 230,000 teen workers are injured annually, ranging from burns and cuts in restaurant kitchens to power tool accidents, and falls from roofs in construction and landscaping jobs. While deaths are rare, between 60 and 70 job-related deaths involving teens occur every year, with close to half of those being in agricultural jobs.
There are other hazards that are not life-threatening, including sexual harassment, hostile co-workers, managers or customers that can create numerous child safety problems for teens. The University of North Carolina published the results of a study in the American Academy of Pediatrics journal named Pediatrics, finding that teens aged 14 to 18 who work at retail and service jobs during the school year put in an average of 16 hours a week, often at jobs that are dangerous and unsupervised.
The study of 928 teen workers found that U.S. youth who work at retail and service jobs “are exposed to multiple hazards, use dangerous equipment despite federal prohibitions and work long hours during the school week.” 80% of them work after 7 p.m. on school nights and over half of them are still working past 9 p.m. The report also says that these teen workers “lack consistent training and adult supervision on the job.”
For most teens and their parents, the payoffs of summer employment far out-weigh the risks. Most teens don’t know how to write a resume, so help your teen create a winning teen resume with the free online service at MyFirstPaycheck, that offers tips and a step-by-guide for kids as young as middle school age to create their own resume. Before your teen accepts a job, consider these child safety tips to help ensure your teen understands child labor laws and their legal rights to work in a safe environment:
Child Labor Laws
Educate yourself and your teen regarding child labor regulations so that he or she will know how to respond if asked to do anything inappropriate, such as serving alcohol in a restaurant or working beyond allowable hours. Go to YouthRules! for specific child labor laws in your particular state, as there is an abundance of information and resources to be found there for teens, parents, educators and employers.
While it may be legal for your teen to work until 7 p.m. on school nights, you might want him or her home by that time so as not to be driving after dark, even over the summer. Establish your own ground rules as a responsible parent, requiring your teen to follow the guidelines and rules you’ve set, which may mean you’ll have to be stricter.
Questions to Ask
Rather than simply asking your teen, “How was work today honey?”, ask leading questions that require more than a simple, “Fine” response. Ask questions like, “Does the manager or supervisor ever ask you to work after you clock out?” Or, “Have your job responsibilities changed since you started the job?”
You need to know if your teen who was hired to do something innocuous may have been given additional duties that may be riskier. You don’t want your teen to be a statistic of job-related injuries when he or she was originally hired to bus tables, but discover too late that they’d been put in the back using a slicing machine.
Signs of Sexual Harassment
The University of Southern Maine in Portland’s sexual harassment study involving 393 teen boys and girls, published in Good Housekeeping Magazine, found that 35% said they had been sexually harassed on the job (two-thirds of whom were female).
Talk to your teens about the study and ask, “Has anyone at work asked you out repeatedly after you’ve already said no?” And, “Has anyone ever made crude comments about your appearance or touched you in an inappropriate way that made you feel uncomfortable?”
Empower your teen to speak up for themselves assertively, so they know how to respond accordingly. Parents can help their teen by role-playing and practicing possible harassment scenarios, teaching your teen to say things like, “That’s gross. Don’t ever say things like that to me again.” If appropriate changes are not made and the harasser continues the behavior, help your teen write a complaint to the manager, or to the next person up the ladder if the manager is sexually harassing your teen.
In cases where the manager is breaking the law, the best course of action for your teen may be to quit and find another job, then report the manager or organization to your state’s Department of Labor. Remember, it’s better to be safe than sorry.