Giving coffee to small children in America is almost taboo. However, with the popularization of coffee houses and specialty coffee drinks, more and more kids and teens are drinking coffee. Contrary to popular belief, coffee does not stunt a child's growth as originally thought, but there are many other side effects of coffee that have been proven to have negative effects on children and teenagers.
Children ages 5 to 12 need at least 11 hours of sleep per day, and teenagers need nine to 10. These numbers seen attainable, but with hectic schedules and early wake-up times, sometimes they are impossible. More and more kids are using coffee to boost their energy levels during the day, but this could be a contributor to lack of sleep. Coffee is a stimulant that has five times more caffeine per serving than a soda, and caffeine can last in the body for up to eight hours, contributing to sleep loss, which only serves to perpetuate the cycle. It is best for children and teenagers to avoid coffee to boost energy levels.
Coffee is acidic. Acidic drinks can cause damage in the mouth by weakening teeth; this leads to a decline in tooth enamel and an increase in cavities. Children are more prone to cavities than adults, as it takes years for new enamel to harden after baby teeth have been lost and adult teeth have come in. Children who drink coffee are more likely than adults to have oral health issues, such as cavities and loss of enamel.
Coffee is a stimulant, which can lead to decreased appetite. Growing children need a balanced diet full of protein, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. When kids drink coffee, the stimulant effect is likely to lead to a decrease in appetite and a decline in overall nutrition.
Coffee is a diuretic -- it increases urine production. Increased urination causes the loss of calcium from the body, which can lead to bone loss. In addition to being a diuretic, it also contains large amounts of caffeine that leach calcium from the body. For every 100 mg of caffeine ingested, 6 mg of calcium are lost. For children, calcium is essential for bone growth.
Coffee can create a host of behavioral problems in children, including hyperactivity, restlessness and inability to concentrate. This is because the caffeine in coffee is a stimulant that increases energy and alertness. While adults may benefit from this side effect, it can be damaging to school-aged children who are required to pay attention and sit still during instruction at school. The effects of caffeine can last for hours -- as long as an entire school day -- and can have negative effects on peer relations, studying and grades.