Teens need their own money but how can they earn it? Sylvia Pennington finds out.
Wrangling trolleys in the Woolies car park and "would you like fries with that?" ... for many Generation Xers and boomers, the Thursday night-Saturday morning job was a rite of passage and a first, sweet taste of financial freedom.
Is today's crop of teens following in their footsteps? Or are parents paying pocket money so their offspring can focus on study and extra-curricular activities, rather than donning a Macca's uniform or stacking shelves after school?
Melbourne dad Paul Sor is reluctant to allow his son Nethaniel, who turns 15 next month, to join the open market for jobs.
Nethaniel would like more cash to fund his iTunes and Xbox habits but Sor - a milkman's helper from age 12 and a garage attendant through high school - says the minimum two nights a week and late finishes a retail or fast-food job would demand would see his son's homework suffer.
Sor and wife Cindy began paying their two children a few dollars a week pocket money once they turned eight.
More recently, Sor has allowed Nethaniel to do piecemeal jobs - mowing, weeding and painting - in his home handyman business for $10 an hour.
"He can get as much money as he wants and can learn a lesson [about money]. I don't think I'm depriving him of anything," Sor says.
Nethaniel is not alone in his desire to be out earning.
Teenjobs.com.au, a site set up in 2008 to link young people with openings in their local area, has more than 50,000 teenagers registered as job seekers and receives about 20,000 visits a month.
Site founder John Saadie says demand for part-time, after-school and flexible jobs has always outstripped supply.
The minimum working age varies between states. Some require under-15s to have parental consent and restrict the hours they can do.
Working outside the home can foster independence and allow young people to experience a gentle sense of separation from the family, according to Judith Cahill, a senior psychologist at Melbourne's Cairnmillar Institute. Both are positives, provided the job is compatible with the family dynamic and school work doesn't take a back seat, Cahill says. Lila Mularczyk, president of the NSW Secondary Principals' Council agrees.
A part-time job can encourage initiative and teach teens responsibility for income and expenditure, time management and leadership skills, Mularczyk says.
Socio-economic factors often dictate the urgency with which young people start looking for work and the number of shifts they will attempt to squeeze in.
Many students at Merrylands High School, where Mularczyk is principal, come from single-parent and refugee families. Bringing in some extra money once they're old enough is more necessity than luxury, she says.
Teens from more affluent backgrounds may have their afternoons and weekends packed with sports, music and other activities, Mularczyk says. Balancing the demands of school work and part-time employment can be problematic for many young workers.
Fast-food chains are popular employers but can require young staff to work up to three midnight shifts a week; a schedule that can leave those with a 7.30am school start short on study time and sleep.
"It's unreasonable for a senior student to maintain that work ethic and a learning ethic," Mularczyk says.
The number of hours a teen can sustain "needs to be part of a plan that's negotiated in the family home", she says.
Sydney-based marketing consultant Kate Smith says about four hours a week of paid work was about right for her daughter Erin, 22, and son Mitch, 16, both of whom were itching to enter the workforce once they reached year nine.
"I have two independent kids who always wanted their own money to do their own thing," Smith says.
Erin held down a Saturday-morning job in a cafe through her later school years, while Mitch scored two early-evening shifts a week at a local video store and now works Friday and Saturday evenings at Kmart.
Both wanted to put their earnings towards school trips and sought their mother's help to create bank accounts for their money.
Neither received pocket money before working. Smith reasoned it caused ructions for little benefit.
"I always saw pocket money as a nightmare - you either give it to them for nothing, or you're always hassling them to do jobs," she says.
She believes the benefits of part-time work go beyond the kids having their own money to spend.
"It's about understanding the value of money, service, small business, what it's like to be an employee, what's required of you." Smith says.
"I don't know anybody who doesn't want their kid to get a part-time job."