Tougher Laws Needed to Protect Teenage Workers, Including Those on Farms

Starting in December 1996, an expert panel convened by the National Research Council's Board on Children, Youth, and Families studied the health and safety implications of child labor.

The panel—the Committee on the Health and Safety Implications of Child Labor—reviewed data on trends in youth employment, the safety of workplaces for youth, and how working affects youth health, education, development, and behavior.

The committee determined that current laws and regulations are outdated and do not adequately protect youth from workplace injuries and health hazards. It made recommendations on:

  1. the collection of health and safety data related to child labor
  2. the coordination of child labor monitoring and surveillance
  3. the identification of labor conditions that appear to pose particular risks to children and youth
  4. the identification of future research needs.

Key Findings

  • Working may increase responsibility, self-esteem and independence, and may help children and adolescents learn valuable work skills.
  • Working 20 or more hours per week is associated with unhealthy and problem behaviors, including substance abuse and minor deviance, insufficient sleep and exercise, and limited time spent with families.
  • The rate of injury appears almost twice as high for children and adolescents as for adults.