Kids and coffee

8 September 2010

Written by: Meghan Lodwick

With one eyebrow raised, I stared down the parent that ordered his 12 year-old son a latte last week. I proceeded to debate whether or not to weaken the shot but didn’t, roughly 80 milligrams of caffeine was the order of which to abide.

I felt uncomfortable serving such an adult drink to a minor, the same sort of unease met when a group of teenagers approach you in a parking lot asking you to buy them booze.

It’s strange as there is no minimum age requirement to drinking coffee, just a general consensus that coffee is not for kids.

The fastest growing coffee consumers at the moment are young adults between the ages of 18 and 24. In the past few years 13 to 17 year olds have been consuming 20 per cent more products containing coffee. I guess all those babycino drinkers finally grew up.

It’s often assumed that coffee stunts your growth and therefore giving it to a developing child is harmful. However, that idea has never been proven, the old wives tale is more a suggestion for those suffering from osteoporosis to refrain from caffeine.

Although caffeine will inhibit some essential nutrient absorption, a single serving of caffeine daily can be balanced out with milk and by meeting daily nutritional needs through food.

So what does that mean for the tweens and teens that idolize Twilight celebrities often photographed outside a café with a 20 oz cup full of caffeine?

According to research scientist, Dr Tomas Depaulis of Vanderbilt University, US, having a cup at a young age may actually be beneficial.

‘There recently was a study from Brazil finding that children who drink coffee with milk each day are less likely to have depression than other children,’ Depaulis said. ‘In fact, no studies show that coffee in reasonable amounts is in any way harmful to children.’

Health Canada also condones consumption recommending a maximum daily allowance of 2.5 milligrams per kilogram of body weight, that’s a full shot of espresso for kids between the ages of 10 and 12.

Coca-Cola contains half as much caffeine as an espresso shot, Red Bull has just as much, yet both are more acceptable drinks for teens in society. Considering that a small can of Red Bull has five teaspoons of sugar added to the kick, coffee may not be such a bad alternative.

Drinking one cup of coffee a day may be beneficial but when you equate all other forms of caffeine into the picture, one shot can be too much. Hyper-activity from more than the daily allowance will cause sleep deprivation and other detrimental effects in children.

Moderation is the key and teaching kids at an early age that lesson is probably more important than restricting something of curiosity.

My parents gave me a glass of wine with dinner to learn how to enjoy alcohol responsibly. Learning to treat espresso as a social and indulgent beverage is a far better way for kids to look at coffee as opposed to something that we need to perk up.

Meghan Lodwick is a Master of Global Communications student at La Trobe University. This was originally published at her blog, For the Love of Beans!