Under 18s: What you can and can’t do for jobs

Under US law, and in most other countries, under 18s can't work in specific 'adult' occupations, and can't operate some financial accounts. They can, however, get their employers in serious trouble if they do anything outside the law. That's why employers get so strict about age-related issues.

Actually, the youth labor laws are intended to be protective. Teens could be forgiven for thinking the main result of these laws is protecting them from any chance of getting a job when they need one, but that's not really the case. They set hours of work, prevent exposure to hazardous conditions, and prevent exploitation. They also enforce laws in relation to areas like safety and health, discrimination, wage standards, various benefits and other workplace requirements for adults.

The 16 to 18-year-old age group is covered by legislation which gives them extra rights, but it can be tricky when you're dealing with both state and federal laws, because they can vary. This is quite common in Western nations. You need to learn your way around the labor market so you know what's possible and what's not when going for a job. That makes a big difference, because if you're looking for jobs where you have no hope of getting them on the basis of age, you can waste a lot of time and effort.

Younger teens are legally minors. That means they're in the extremely irritating position of being old enough to be broke, but not old enough to get a job and do something about it. There are jobs which are suitable for the under 16s, but you have to check to make sure you're legally OK doing them, for your sake and the employer's.

Warning: Money problems

The internet has created risks for teens with online jobs where people bend the rules by operating illegal accounts as part of their jobs. It can cause more trouble than you will ever want to think about. Financial institutions like credit cards, banks and PayPal aren't allowed to operate these accounts.

You can lose your hard earned money, and in some cases, have a bad financial report following you around causing you trouble later. If you get a credit card company in trouble when you're 16, don't be surprised if they're not too keen on giving you another when you're 19. There are better ways of spending your teen years than destroying your credit options.

Don't create problems for yourself, and you'll have far fewer of them later. If you're under 18, enjoy it. Stay out of the danger zones.