March 19, 2007

Despite federal regulations intended to protect them, many teenagers in the United States work long hours during the school week, according to a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study.

The national study, published in the March 1, 2007, journal Pediatrics, was based on telephone surveys of 928 workers between the ages of 14 to 18 years.

According to the study results, many teens younger than 16 years old reported working after 7 pm on school nights, which is illegal, and suggests the need for better enforcement of child labor laws, said lead study author Carol Runyan, PhD, director of UNC’s Injury Prevention Research Center (IPRC) and professor of health behavior and health education in the UNC School of Public Health. Some teens said they worked after 11 pm on school nights, potentially interfering with school or sleep.

“Though there are benefits to work, not enough attention has been paid to safety,” Runyan said. “Federal and state child labor laws are designed to restrict the working environments, tasks, and hours that teens work. However, the data we collected suggest there are gaps in how well businesses are complying.”