Yes, It's Okay for Teenagers to Work

(AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

There’s a viral social media “controversy” going around right now after a customer discovered a 13-year old employee at a Chic-fil-A.


Now people are asking – is it ethical to allow a child that young to work?

My response is this – it is unethical to not allow a teenager to find gainful employment. This is not 1890. The United States and each of our individual states have many laws against exploitative child labor, including truancy laws for schooling. We’re in no danger of suddenly seeing an explosion of 6-year-olds operating kitchen fryers. But we are in danger of losing the value of work and productivity.

I’ve heard parents say that “school is my child’s job” but school is not a job. School is one form of learning. Another form of learning is having practical experience. Jobs give teenagers experience in earning, saving, teamwork, responsibility and delayed gratification. Working for a regular paycheck so you can have something you want or need is one of the most basic elements of adulthood. The classroom is important, but it is not more important than real-world experience. Too many children are spending too much time with concept and not enough time with reality.

My colleague Brandon Morse made an excellent point (or two) when covering this topic here on the pages of RedState:


Firstly, I think it’s interesting that the left thinks working at the age of 13 at an establishment is too young when the same left believes a four-year-old kid can decide his or her gender identity and be subjected to permanent life-altering procedures. You’ll pardon me if I don’t take their outrage about young teens working jobs seriously.

Secondly, this is the same left that thinks we should lower the voting age to 16. Somehow, a 13-year-old is too young to work, but just three years later they should help decide the fate of a nation?

Seems a bit backward.

As far as “child labor” goes, I think we first need to understand what qualifies as “child labor.” A 13-year-old kid working at a local store for minimum wage under the approval of a parent or guardian hardly seems like child labor.

Sure, we can discuss nuances such as what they can and can’t operate at the store, but stocking shelves, taking inventory, helping customers, and learning the ins and outs of an operation seem more like a learning opportunity than actual labor.

Sending them to work in sweatshops or down into mines would qualify as “child labor” in the sense that the left is trying to impart, but I don’t see many people advocating for that. They aren’t Apple after all.


Work is the most basic aspect of human nature. It’s primal. Biblical, even. When we deny ourselves or others the opportunity to work, we deny dignity. Letting young people experience the dignity of a few hours of paid work is essential to development. If they are safe, working limited hours, going to school, and have the permission of their parents, I see no reason why any teenager shouldn’t work as soon and as much as possible.

Listen to the audio version of this topic on Just Listen to Yourself, available wherever you find your podcasts.


The opinions expressed by contributors are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of



Join the conversation as a VIP Member

Trending on RedState Videos