For children and teens, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends caution when it comes to caffeine consumption. According to the AAP, teens aged 12 to 18 should limit their daily caffeine intake to 100 mg, which is equivalent to one cup of coffee, one or two cups of tea, or two or three cans of soda. For children under 12, there is no safe threshold for caffeine consumption. Caffeine can cause a range of unwanted side effects in both adolescents and adults.
Some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others, and even a small amount can produce adverse effects. These are the most common effects of caffeine consumption, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM): many people report feeling “addicted” to caffeine because they have difficulty quitting or reducing their intake. Some people continue to consume it even though they experience unwanted psychological or physical side effects. The image of a 13-year-old drinking coffee may seem strange, but recent studies have found that coffee consumption can reduce the risk of heart disease and premature death. Coffee has also been found to contain several antioxidant compounds, including polyphenols, which appear to have healthy anti-inflammatory effects. However, drinking coffee or tea can stain your teeth, and the sugar in many caffeinated drinks can cause tooth decay.
Energy drinks contain other substances that may be harmful to teens, such as guarana, which is derived from a plant found in South America. Some of the sweet iced and flavored coffee drinks popular with children, such as Starbucks Frappuccinos, contain more than 50 grams of sugar. A single energy drink can contain up to 500 mg of caffeine, equivalent to 14 cans of soda. The increase in adolescent caffeine consumption could be attributed to marketing and popular culture embracing coffee and high-performance drinks, but it could also be due to social pressures that make caffeine more attractive to teens. Therefore, energy drinks high in sugar and stimulants should be avoided. Every 10 milligrams of caffeine consumed by a 13-year-old child reduces his chances of getting 8.5 hours of sleep by 12%.
In addition to coffee and tea, soft drinks and energy drinks may include high levels of caffeine and sugar. Some parents confuse energy drinks with sports drinks, and many teens mistakenly believe that energy drinks are healthy alternatives to soda. Drinking soda or energy drinks instead of milk can also put the teen at greater risk of developing osteoporosis. For parents of teens who intend to drink coffee, guiding them towards decaf or “half coffee” can mitigate any risks while still providing some benefits. As long as a young person drinks coffee early in the day and does not load it with sugar or other unhealthy additives, parents probably won't have to worry.