Coffee is a daily beverage for many adults, but at what age should we be allowed to consume it? In this article, we explore why parents should be cautious about letting young teenagers consume coffee on a regular basis.
The Effects of Caffeine
Caffeine is a stimulant which, for many of us, can have a positive impact on our bodies. It blocks certain receptors in our brains, boosting our energy and stopping us from feeling tired. For adults, this can be a good thing – a boost of energy when energy is needed. For teenagers, however, caffeine can have more negative impacts.
Concentration and Ability to Sleep
In adults, caffeine can improve concentration. With teenagers, however, caffeine can slow concentration and focus, and affect a teenager’s ability to sleep. Children need at least 8 hours of sleep and caffeine is a stimulant, which means it can take longer for them to fall asleep, meaning they may not sleep as well.
Caffeine consumption in adults can increase anxiety, insomnia and depression. For adolescents, the risks of developing these side effects is higher. This is because on average, adolescents have lower body weight, so caffeine can have more than twice the impact it does on adults.
A child’s brain is still developing, and as such it is more open to addiction and stress. Caffeine will likely disrupt the neural connections forming in your child’s brain, which can lead not only to anxiety and insomnia, but also to addiction – especially caffeine addiction.
Tips and Tricks
We do not drink coffee solely for the energy hit – many of us drink it in social situations and because we like the taste. The same applies to our children and teenagers. It is becoming more and more common for teenagers to go to a coffee shop after school to catch up with their friends. Here are a few tips you can use.
Decaffeinated coffee has significantly less caffeine in it, and therefore, will have fewer negative side-effects on your child. If they really want a coffee, purchase a decaf.
Establish a clear time limit. Your child shouldn’t have coffee after 5pm, as this will affect their sleep schedule.
If your child is having coffee, try to make it a treat instead of a regular thing. Many children don’t need the energy boost that coffee provides as they should be naturally energetic anyway.
Young children below the age of 12 should definitely not be consuming any coffee. Experts advise waiting until your child is at least 16, however, before giving them coffee.
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