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The Hidden Costs of the “Great Side Hustle for Kids and Teens”

By Evelyn BookerJune 10, 2023 You’ve heard of “Take Your Child to Work Day,” but what about “Turn Your Child Into a Mini-CEO Month?” Thanks to Emily Wade’s article, “Don’t Get a Job,” I’m finally starting to question whether turning our children into little hustlers and 1099 contractors is the 21st-century version of child labor….

By Evelyn Booker
June 10, 2023

You’ve heard of “Take Your Child to Work Day,” but what about “Turn Your Child Into a Mini-CEO Month?” Thanks to Emily Wade’s article, “Don’t Get a Job,” I’m finally starting to question whether turning our children into little hustlers and 1099 contractors is the 21st-century version of child labor. (Spoiler: It might be.)

If you’ve recently come across Emily Wade’s thought-provoking article “Don’t Get a Job”, you may find yourself questioning traditional norms around labor, especially for young people. And if you haven’t, it’s an enlightening read that I recommend checking out on her website or her insightful Substack, Conscious Humanity.

Side Hustles for Kids and Their Equally Rewarding Alternatives

Certainly, there are advantages to kids and teens taking on side hustles—learning financial responsibility, gaining real-world experience, etc. But for every side hustle that promises to “prepare them for the real world,” there are alternative activities that offer equal, if not more, enriching experiences without commodifying their time and talent. Here’s a look at some popular side hustles for young people, paired with alternatives that nurture pro-social skills, creativity, or even the sublime art of doing nothing like overextending the “working” years of life.

1. Pet Sitting

Alternative: Animal Volunteering
Instead of taking care of pets for cash, kids can volunteer at a local animal shelter. This fosters empathy, responsibility, and a sense of community service without any commercial exchange involved.

2. Coding Apps or Websites

Alternative: Collaborative Tech-Free Projects
Gather some neighborhood kids and create a tech-free project like a treehouse, an art installation, or even a community garden. This nurtures teamwork, physical skills, and a sense of accomplishment, all without staring at a screen.

3. Running a Lemonade Stand

Alternative: Cooking for Family and Friends
While selling lemonade can teach kids about basic economics, spending time cooking a meal for loved ones nourishes emotional intelligence and fosters a sense of community. Plus, it’s great for family bonding.

4. Selling Crafts

Alternative: Art for Art’s Sake
Creativity shouldn’t always have a price tag. Kids can engage in art projects simply for the joy of it, allowing them to experiment freely without worrying about marketability.

5. Tutoring

Alternative: Peer Support Groups
Instead of formal tutoring, kids can engage in peer support or study groups where everyone helps each other out. This reinforces the social skills of active listening, empathy, and cooperation.

6. Flipping Thrifted Items

Alternative: Community Swap Meets
Organize a local swap meet where kids and families can exchange items they no longer need. This teaches the value of resourcefulness and community, without the profit motive.

7. YouTube Creator

Alternative: Personal Journaling or Storytelling
Not every story needs an audience to be meaningful. Journaling allows kids to express themselves authentically without worrying about likes, shares, or subscribers.

8. Influencer

Alternative: The Joy of Doing Nothing
We’ve sold the idea that every child needs to be a brand, a concept, or a sensation. But there’s a rebellious thrill in choosing to opt out. Sometimes, doing nothing is the most liberating thing a kid can do. Let them sit on the porch, stare at the clouds, and simply daydream. The value of such stillness? Priceless.

9. Streaming Games

Alternative: Physical Sports or Board Games with Family
The social aspect of gaming is great, but there’s also value in good old-fashioned physical games and sports that improve physical health and allow for real-life social interactions.

By no means is this an exhaustive list, but the key takeaway is simple: life offers a rich array of experiences that don’t require a business model to be valuable. Sometimes, the best hustle is no hustle at all.

Wade’s article and the ensuing discourse prompted a more extensive exploration of how technological advancements are affecting not just the way we work, but how we live, engage with each other, and construct our social fabric. While technology is often heralded as a panacea for societal ills, is it truly serving us, or is it undermining labor relations and democratizing precarity?

In the following piece, we’ll dive deep into the nuanced relationship between technological innovation and its societal impacts, examining if these advancements are truly revolutionary in the ways they promise or if they merely perpetuate existing inequities under a new guise.

Hustle Culture: The New Candy Crush Saga?

Buzzwords like “financial independence” and “entrepreneurship” are being peddled to kids like candy on Halloween. And hey, there’s nothing wrong with a young tycoon in the making, but let’s not put the side-hustle before the scooter.

From Selfie-Stick to Self-Employment

Before you cheer your teen’s launch into the gig economy, remember they might just be trading their Snapchat filters for tax forms. Sure, it’s important for kids to learn the value of money, but is now the right time? And do they have to find it under the sofa cushions of the gig economy?

Table of Pros and Cons: “Junior Moguls: Yay or Nay?”

Financial IndependenceLoss of Free Time
Kids learn the concept of money, now with 50% fewer tantrums at the toy store!Say goodbye to family game nights and hello to invoice tracking.
Entrepreneurial SkillsAcademic Neglect
Your child might be the next Elon Musk, minus the Twitter antics.Homework? What’s that?
Responsibility & DisciplineMental and Physical Exhaustion
Little Timmy now schedules his own dental appointments.But can he schedule his own breakdowns?
Real-World ExperienceLoss of Childhood
So adulting, much wow!Remember tree climbing? That’s now replaced by climbing corporate ladders.
NetworkingPotential Exploitation
LinkedIn for pre-teens? Why not!No one wants Junior to get Scrooged before his first prom.
Skill DevelopmentInequality and Access
So you’ve got a knitting prodigy. Awesome!Not every child has access to a world of possibilities—or even a basic Etsy shop.
Playgrounds not Powerpoint

Digital Irony: Progress or Peril?

In an era where technology promised to liberate us, the kids aren’t just alright—they’re on the clock. So, are we heading toward progress or merely putting a modern twist on Dickensian nightmares?

The Art of Stillness: Why Doing Nothing Might Be the Best Gift We Can Give Our Kids

In an era where #hustle and #grind are not just hashtags but cultural mandates, we might feel compelled to set our kids on the same relentless treadmill toward achievement. The question we have to ask ourselves is, at what cost? What are we giving up in the name of constant productivity, and could the act of doing nothing actually offer more value than we realize?

The Hidden Richness of Stillness

Let’s reframe “doing nothing” as the practice of stillness, an intentional choice that offers a counterbalance to our frenetic world. It’s a space where kids can simply be, not constantly becoming, achieving, or producing.

  1. Nurturing Creativity: In stillness, the imagination flourishes. When kids aren’t bound by schedules or tasks, they often discover innovative ideas and solutions that wouldn’t have surfaced in the clamor of activity.
  2. Emotional Intelligence: Moments of quiet and solitude give children the chance to explore their feelings, sharpening their emotional intelligence. They can learn to sit with their thoughts, good or bad, and process them constructively.
  3. Quality Time: When life slows down, meaningful interactions become more possible. Family bonds are strengthened not through orchestrated “quality time,” but through the simple act of being together without agenda.
  4. Holistic Wellness: Taking time to relax is not just good for the mind; it’s essential for physical health. By lowering stress levels and promoting relaxation, stillness is a preventive measure against a host of potential health problems.
  5. Authenticity: Stillness can be an incubator for authenticity. Freed from external expectations and judgments, kids can explore who they truly are and what matters most to them.

The Folly of Unending Productivity

When every hour has a goal, every minute a metric, and every second a KPI, we’re training our kids to evaluate their worth in terms of output. But humans aren’t machines. We’re complex beings who benefit from pauses, from periods of reflection, from time spent in simple enjoyment. In stillness, we find the room to grow in ways that metrics can never capture.

The Social Value of Doing Nothing

Society thrives when its individuals are well-rounded, and this is as true for children as it is for adults. By giving kids the freedom to do nothing, we’re teaching them that their value is not solely tied to their achievements. We’re preserving the societal values of empathy, care, and community, allowing kids to become better neighbors, friends, and citizens.

Toward a More Balanced Future

We need to divorce ourselves from the notion that productivity is the only path to value, either for ourselves or our children. By embracing the art of stillness, we offer a more balanced, humane alternative, one that recognizes the inherent worth of each individual, irrespective of their output.

In the end, a culture that respects the power of doing nothing will cultivate happier, more balanced individuals. And that’s an achievement worth striving for.

The Future Ain’t What It Used to Be

In a world that’s tech-savvy but ethics-sketchy, let’s make conscious choices about the values we instill in our pint-sized adults-in-training. After all, childhood should be more about playgrounds and less about PowerPoint slides.

To Serve Man (or Child)

So, are we empowering our kids, or are we converting them into cogs in a capitalist machine that runs on youthful zeal and protein shakes? Here’s a thought: Maybe we shouldn’t need a TikTok video to start asking these questions.

So go on, challenge the system, question the hype, and for the love of naptime, let kids be kids—even if they have the makings of baby Bezos.

The Innovation Mirage

We live in a world where every new app, platform, or gadget is touted as revolutionary. The tech industry, buoyed by venture capital and Silicon Valley optimism, promises that their innovations will make our lives better, more connected, and increasingly efficient. But what often goes unexamined amidst this fanfare is the cost at which these “improvements” come.

Labor Relations in a Digital World

Let’s be blunt: Is technology serving us, or are we serving technology? The erosion of stable employment in favor of gig work, freelancing, and perpetual side hustles has been significantly propelled by digital platforms. For every benefit like flexible hours or the freedom to choose projects, there’s a dark underbelly of no healthcare, no job security, and no safety net. The question remains: Is technology disrupting labor for the better, or is it merely creating an elaborate architecture to exploit workers under the guise of innovation?

Democratising Precarity

What’s even more troubling is the notion that this precarious existence is somehow democratized, that it’s equally precarious for everyone. This idea is a fallacy. Vulnerable communities bear the brunt of this “democratised precarity,” lacking the resources to navigate the volatile landscape that technology has helped to create.

The Commons: An Ethical Alternative?

The notion of ‘the commons’ might offer an alternative to this troubling trajectory. Rather than putting kids to work or leaving entire communities to navigate the hazards of the gig economy, could we invest in shared resources that serve everyone? Could we redirect some of the immense wealth generated by tech innovations back into public goods, fostering community resilience and well-being?

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Kids, Teens, and Side Hustles

Q: Isn’t financial independence a crucial life skill that kids should learn?

A: Absolutely, learning how to manage finances is important, but it shouldn’t come at the cost of a balanced, fulfilling childhood. There are various ways to teach kids about money that don’t involve turning them into mini CEOs at the age of 12.

Q: Don’t side hustles offer valuable real-world experiences that schools don’t provide?

A: While it’s true that side hustles can provide practical life lessons, it’s worth questioning whether the “real-world” we’re preparing them for is one we should aspire to. Do we really want a world that commodifies every skill, talent, and even free moment?

Q: Aren’t you undermining the entrepreneurial spirit by offering ‘non-commercial’ alternatives?

A: Not at all. The entrepreneurial spirit isn’t solely about making money; it’s about innovation, problem-solving, and taking initiative. These qualities can be cultivated in numerous ways that don’t involve a financial transaction.

Q: My child genuinely enjoys their side hustle. What’s the issue?

A: If your child enjoys what they’re doing, that’s great! The concern isn’t about individual cases but a broader cultural push to commercialize childhood universally. The key is balance and ensuring that the side hustle doesn’t become a full-time job that interferes with other important aspects of growing up.

Q: Are you saying technology is bad for kids?

A: No, technology is a tool, and like any tool, its impact depends on how it’s used. The point here is to question whether we’re using technology to truly enrich lives or if it’s merely creating new channels for exploitation and inequality.

Q: Is there something inherently wrong with turning a hobby into a business?

A: Turning a hobby into a business isn’t inherently problematic. The issue arises when the sole value of an activity, or even a person, is measured in economic terms, especially at a young age.

Q: What’s the big deal about ‘doing nothing’?

A: In our hustle-centric culture, ‘doing nothing’ is often perceived as laziness or a waste of time. However, idle moments can be incredibly valuable. They offer time for reflection, creativity, and mental rest that can be crucial for personal development.

Q: Don’t these alternatives you’re proposing also require time and commitment?

A: Yes, they do. But the difference lies in the intent and outcome. These alternatives are designed to enrich a child’s life in ways that aren’t quantifiable by money, focusing on emotional intelligence, community-building, and self-discovery.

Remember, life’s most valuable experiences often don’t have price tags, and childhood is too precious to commodify. Sometimes the best ROI (Return on Investment) is emotional well-being and a well-rounded character.

Final Thoughts

As technology continues to evolve at a breakneck pace, it’s crucial to step back and assess its real impact on our lives and society. We must critically examine if these tools and platforms are serving us as promised, or if they’re merely perpetuating inequality, disrupting labor relations, and normalizing a precarious existence. It’s a conversation we can no longer afford to ignore.

The perspective in Evelyn Booker’s article that questions the trend of encouraging children and teenagers to engage in side hustles is not necessarily about privilege, but rather about a holistic view of childhood well-being, ethical labor practices, and social equity.
Equal Access to a Balanced Childhood

The argument advocates for every child’s right to a balanced life, including free time for intellectual and emotional development. This is something that benefits everyone, not just the privileged. When children from all backgrounds have the freedom to explore, learn, and simply be, society at large gains more well-rounded, creative, and emotionally intelligent individuals.
Resisting Exploitation

Critiquing the gig economy and child labor isn’t an act of privilege; it’s an act of resistance against a system that disproportionately exploits vulnerable communities. Demanding better labor conditions and more free time for all children can actually contribute to leveling the social playing field.
Quality over Quantity

The article calls for quality of life over the quantity of work performed or money earned. This viewpoint is grounded in the notion that our worth shouldn’t be defined by our productivity, a concept that liberates not just the privileged but everyone from the societal pressures of continuous work.
Mental Health and Emotional Well-being

Overworked children can become overworked adults. A society that values balance, rest, and personal development can contribute to improved mental health for all, cutting across lines of class and privilege.
The Commons at Stake

When we commodify every aspect of life, including childhood, we erode the shared cultural and social values that make a community strong. By resisting this commodification, we support the “commons” or shared aspects of life that benefit everyone, rich or poor.
Technological Disruptions Should Benefit All

If technological advances are genuinely progressive, they should enable a better quality of life for everyone, not just create new avenues for child labor and exploitation. Reclaiming the promise of technology as a tool for collective well-being ensures that everyone, regardless of their social standing, reaps the benefits of innovation.

By advocating for a more ethical and balanced approach to childhood labor and technology use, we’re championing a more equitable, humane society for everyone involved.


  1. “The Disease of Being Busy” by Omid Safi – This article delves into the toll that “busyness” takes on our emotional and spiritual well-being.
  2. “The Cult of Busy” by Darius Foroux – An examination of why society puts so much value on being busy and why this might not be a good thing.
  3. “In Praise of Doing Nothing” by Olga Mecking – Published in The New York Times, this article advocates for the benefits of “Niksen,” the Dutch concept of doing nothing.
  4. “The Rise and Fall of Getting Things Done” by Cal Newport – This New Yorker article discusses the shortcomings of productivity culture and offers alternative ways of working.
  5. “Escape the ‘cult of busy’ by working smarter, not harder” by Brigid Schulte – The Guardian article argues for a smarter approach to work that doesn’t glorify busyness.


  1. “Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World” by Cal Newport – A call to abandon shallow work and engage in more meaningful, focused activities.
  2. “How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy” by Jenny Odell – A deep dive into how the attention economy traps us in a cycle of constant activity.
  3. “Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less” by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang – This book explores why rest is not just a luxury, but a necessity for productivity and creativity.
  4. “Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle” by Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski – Examines the physical and emotional toll of burnout culture.
  5. “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” by Greg McKeown – Discusses the philosophy of doing less but better, rather than trying to do everything all the time.

These resources each bring unique perspectives to the discussion about the culture of busyness and offer insights on how to escape or alter it for the better.

Article Ideas:

  1. “The Cost of the Side Hustle: Why We Need to Reclaim Childhood”
    • Examine the impact of side hustles on children’s development and well-being, and argue for a balanced approach that includes free time for exploration and growth.
  2. “Digital Chains: How Tech Disrupts the Work-Life Balance”
    • Delve into how technological advancements are affecting not just the way we work, but also how we engage with family, leisure, and community.
  3. “From Playtime to Paytime: Is ‘Doing Nothing’ the New Rebellion?”
    • Explore the concept of doing nothing as a form of resistance against a culture that constantly demands productivity, even from children.
  4. “The Mirage of Digital Freedom: Is Tech Really Democratizing?”
    • Investigate if technology is really leveling the playing field or if it is exacerbating inequalities.
  5. “Dismantling Hustle Culture from Within”
    • Offer a personal account of how you’re navigating and pushing back against hustle culture while still being part of it for survival.
  6. “Why ‘Doing Nothing’ Is a Privilege Everyone Should Have”
    • Tackle the notion that the ability to do nothing without consequence is a privilege, and argue for why it should be a universally accessible human right.
  7. “The Myth of Productivity: Why Being Busy Isn’t the Same as Being Effective”
    • Challenge the conflation of busyness with productivity and offer alternative measures of effectiveness and fulfillment.
  8. “FAQs About Side Hustles for Kids: What Parents Need to Know”
    • Address common questions and concerns that parents might have about allowing or encouraging their children to take on side hustles.
  9. “The ‘Busy’ Trap: How to Break Free and Live a Balanced Life”
    • Provide actionable steps for people to extricate themselves from the culture of busyness and find a more balanced way of living.

Potential Hashtags:

  • #SideHustleReality
  • #ChildhoodReclaimed
  • #TechImpact
  • #DoingNothingIsDoingSomething
  • #BeyondHustleCulture
  • #DigitalChains
  • #DemocratizingOrDividing

Any of these could offer an engaging, substantive addition to ongoing conversations about hustle culture, the impact of technology, and the often ignored value of leisure and downtime.

Gamification of leaisure

If you’re aiming to educate people on the importance of work-life balance, you might consider the following game concepts:

  1. “Balancing Act” Concept: The player has to allocate time between work, self-improvement, social activities, and rest. Each day has only 24 hours, and the player must make choices that affect their health, social life, and career. Interactivity: Multiple-choice questions, drag-and-drop time allocation. Learning Outcome: To teach the importance of balance in daily life and show the consequences of extreme “hustle.”
  2. “Hustle Escape Room” Concept: Players find themselves locked in an “Office of Eternal Hustle,” where the only way to escape is by solving puzzles related to work-life balance, self-care, and the importance of free time. Interactivity: Clickable elements, puzzles, clickable clues. Learning Outcome: To emphasize the need for a healthy work-life balance and to provide information about the risks associated with perpetual hustling.
  3. “Choose Your Path: The Side Hustle Dilemma” Concept: A branching-choices game where players assume the role of a young person deciding whether to take on a side hustle, focusing on academics, or spending time on leisure activities. Interactivity: Multiple-choice options that lead to different outcomes. Learning Outcome: To illustrate the pros and cons of side hustles for young people.
  4. “Wheel of Misfortune” Concept: Players spin a wheel with different life scenarios based on their choices of spending too much time on work, leisure, or self-improvement. Interactivity: Spin-the-wheel, clickable options. Learning Outcome: To highlight the unpredictability and potential downsides of an imbalanced life.

You can use H5P to build these interactive experiences with its various content types like Interactive Video, Multiple Choice, Drag and Drop, and more.

Evelyn Booker is a San Francisco-chatGPT-based tech critic and writer who focuses on the intersection of technology, ethics, and societal impacts. She brings a human-centric lens to the technological discourse, challenging us all to scrutinize the systems we inhabit and the choices we make within them.

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