Coffee has been linked to health benefits in adults but, for children, it may be more dangerous. Because it is still unclear how caffeine, a stimulant and the active ingredient in coffee and most energy drinks, impacts developing brains.
“I don’t see any reason that young children should be consuming caffeine,” Terry Cralle, a nurse and member of the Better Sleep Council, told Fatherly. “We do not know how caffeine affects brain development in children or teens.”
It’s not clear how many children drink coffee, but more than 70 percent of kids consume caffeine on a given day, according to a report from the American Academy of Pediatrics. This seems to only increase as they get older — caffeine consumption has more than doubled among adolescents since 1980, research shows. Kids who drank either coffee or soft drinks had double the risk of sleep disturbances in a large study of over 4,000 school-aged children. Although the FDA does not have formal recommendations regarding caffeine intake for children, Canada has a maximum limit of 45 mg per day (about one can of soda). The AAP is even more strict, and discourages parents from allowing consumption of caffeinated beverages altogether.
There are some experts, however, who are less worried about coffee than other caffeinated beverages. Unlike soda, for instance, coffee tends to be quite bitter. “I’m not opposed to kids having coffee,” Kristin Koskinen, a dietician and mother of five told Fatherly. “Frankly, the bitter taste usually keeps kids away from it or limits their intake to a sip or two.”
Still, it may be wise to keep your children away from even small sips of coffee. “Talk to your children about the dangers of caffeine in the same way you discuss drugs or alcohol. Warn children that consuming too much could cause serious problems,” Cralle says. “We don’t know are the risks related to early or excessive consumption of caffeine.”