With the increase in coffee shops and vending machines selling caffeinated beverages, more and more children and teens are drinking caffeine, but is coffee really safe for a teen?

Caffeine consumption in adults has been a normal pastime and is very acceptable. People use caffeine for many reasons, including help with concentration, to wake up in the mornings, and for the taste. Most studies in adults show that small to moderate doses (like a cup of coffee) in adults are safe. However, there are very few studies of the effects of caffeine on children and teens.

Teens are not simply ‘little adults.’ Their bodies are quickly growing and their brains are developing. We do not know how caffeine might affect these processes in kids. What we do know is this: caffeine is often paired with sugar. Whether it is in the form of a cola, a latte, or an energy drink, caffeinated beverages and sugar go hand in hand. High consumption of sugary drinks is associated with being overweight. In addition, caffeine is a stimulant. It can cause a racing heartbeat, shaky hands, and nausea. It also disrupts sleep. Sleep is extremely important for growth and brain development in teens and without caffeine, many don’t get the recommended 8-10 hours/night.

So, next time you and your teen stop by a café or vending machine, think twice about giving them that latte or coffee containing beverage.