Opinion

Remember when teenagers worked during the summer?

Not all that many years ago the majority of high school students spent their summers working, earning a few extra spending dollars while gaining valuable real-life experience that just cannot be had in the classroom.

Today, not so much.

According to a recent story by The Associated Press, only 36 percent of Americans ages 16 to 19 worked last July. Way back in 1986, 57 percent of them did.

The reasons are plenty.

Many teens are now spending their summers studying or accumulating volunteer hours in an effort to make themselves more marketable to universities, especially those with limited slots for incoming students.

Other teenagers are perfectly content to waste the summer away in front of a television or with an iPad in their hands — and to be fair, there has never been a shortage of lazy youth, no matter the country or the generation.

And then there are those who would like to work but can’t find jobs. Many low-paying jobs — like those at grocery stores and fast food restaurants — that have been traditionally filled by young and inexperienced workers are now held by foreign-born workers and Americans nearing traditional retirement age, according to the AP.

No matter the reason, we believe the trend to be a troubling one.

Those summer jobs teach youth how to be responsible, and it provides them with valuable work experience and important life skills, like money and time management, and how to properly deal with conflicts. Those jobs also often expose them to people of different ethnic, social and cultural backgrounds, and help to make them more well rounded citizens. According to the AP, studies have also shown that teens who participate in summer jobs programs achieve higher school attendance and academic performance and are less likely to commit crimes.

Education and volunteering are both clearly important and should not be overlooked, but today’s teenagers are missing out on many valuable lessons and experiences when they don’t enter the summer workforce.

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