Caffeine in any form, including coffee, is not recommended for kids younger than age 12, according to the UCLA Health System website, but coffee is not harmful to teenagers if enjoyed in moderation. People drink coffee for its physical effects, as well as for the social aspect, and teens can also benefit from indulging in coffee responsibly.
Teenagers live busy lives, juggling their social lives with schoolwork, sports and other activities. Many do not get enough sleep to feel refreshed in the morning. Only 15 percent of teens get more than eight hours of sleep on school nights, according to the Sleep Foundation. The caffeine in coffee acts as a mild stimulant, waking up people who drink it and honing their mental alertness. Teens can benefit from drinking coffee before school if they need a mild stimulant to help them stay awake and focus on their schoolwork or another activity. Coffee should only be used occasionally for this purpose, as teens should practice healthy sleeping habits, which include getting eight hours of sleep per night.
Drinking coffee is a social activity, and coffee shops are often hubs of activity for teens and young adults. Coffee is a healthy drink in moderation, although fancy coffee-based concoctions may contain a lot of sugar, fat and calories. Teens can benefit from socializing with their friends over coffee, which is healthier than overindulging in high-powered energy drinks or sneaking illicit beverages like alcohol.
Teenagers should limit their coffee intake so they do not consume more than 100 mg of caffeine per day, or one cup of brewed coffee, the TeensHealth website recommends. Drinking more than that amount puts youngsters at risk of caffeine addiction. Teens who enjoy the social benefits of coffee drinking can switch to decaffeinated versions of their favorite beverages to keep their consumption at a healthy level.
Teens who drink coffee for its physical and mental benefits may inadvertently consume too much caffeine by drinking other caffeinated drinks or using other products containing the drug. For example, cola-based soft drinks are common caffeine sources for youngsters, as are energy drinks and even iced tea. Pain and cold medicine manufacturers often enhance their over-the-counter drugs with caffeine. Teenagers should be vigilant about monitoring overall caffeine consumption, not just coffee drinking.
Caffeine withdrawal is unpleasant, as teens who inadvertently get addicted to the substance by drinking too much coffee or other sources will have physical symptoms if they abruptly cut off their intake of the chemical. The headaches, upset stomach and irritability will peak within two days and disappear entirely in a little more than a week. Most teenagers who stay below 100 mgs per day of caffeine consumption do not get addicted.