Should an 11 year old be drinking coffee?
December 28, 2005 12:40 PM   Subscribe

Should an 11 year old be drinking coffee?

I went to my local caffeine dispensary the other day and in front of me in line was a classmate of my eleven year old. The clerk asked if the coffee was for her and she said yes. She bought the coffee and left. It got me to thinking about caffeine use in general and about caffeine use in children in particular.

I didn't intervene and I wouldn't. But, what is an appropriate age to start the caffeine habit?
posted by Xurando to Food & Drink (36 answers total)
My high school served coffee in the cafeteria.

I don't like coffee, but I don't think it's uncommon in non-North American cultures to give kids coffee if they would drink it (probably by 4 or so). Sometimes weakened. My aunt was saying just yesterday that her grandparents would brew a pot of coffee and then brew a pot for the kids using the same grounds.

People give their kids pop, which seems worse because it actually tastes good (and thus they will consume it more eagerly and more of it).
posted by duck at 12:46 PM on December 28, 2005

Why not? A cup of coffee isn't going to kill you or make you into a drug addict. The addictive properties of caffine are kinda overrated anyway.
posted by dydecker at 12:46 PM on December 28, 2005

My mom always said it would stunt your growth at that age, but I'm pretty sure that's just one of those bullshit things that mothers say.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 12:49 PM on December 28, 2005

Considering kids are just fed soda all the time, pumping them full of caffeine and sugar, coffee should be no big deal. At least they won't get so fat off of coffee.
posted by Saydur at 12:55 PM on December 28, 2005

Give the kid her joe. It's less harmful to her than whatever pop she would otherwise be drinking.

But please, please, if you see her moving into the frou-frou drinks like a Mocha CappaFrattelino, report her to the authorities. That crap must be stopped.
posted by unixrat at 12:56 PM on December 28, 2005

To me, 11 (which would put them in about 5th grade, schoolwise) seems too young. Freshman in high school seems about right to me. I'm an old fogey though, so ymmv.
posted by Chrischris at 12:57 PM on December 28, 2005

wow. since when was coffee a controlled substance?
posted by andrew cooke at 12:57 PM on December 28, 2005

Lots of papers in pubmed on this. Here's a good place to start:
Caffeine consumption and weekly sleep patterns in US seventh-, eighth-, and ninth-graders.

posted by cosmicbandito at 12:59 PM on December 28, 2005

I don't have a problem with it, but then I developed a taste for coffee at the ripe young age of 6, though it started out as more like milk flavored with coffee. As an adult, I enjoy having an occasional cup of joe, but now prefer tea.
posted by SteveInMaine at 1:05 PM on December 28, 2005

Remember that most colas have caffeine, though individual servings have lower doses than most coffees. Also the fastest-growing market segment for retail drinks right now are the "energy drinks". Many kids already consume significant quantities of stimulant. I'd think that coffee (or tea), given that it has almost no calories, would be a better choice for most teenagers than cola (or Mountain Dew, or Red Bull and such ilk).
posted by bonehead at 1:13 PM on December 28, 2005

One other thing to consider is that sometimes Parents of children with ADD give Coffee to their child because it helps calm down children.
posted by mickbw at 1:13 PM on December 28, 2005

I have a friend whose 7-year-old has ADHD and something called, I think, obstinate-defiant syndrome. She didn't want him to go on Ritalin, and sought out an alternative treatment, which includes a sugared espresso for him each morning. In the same way that Ritalin (a stimulant) calms ADHD kids, the coffee somehow calms him.
posted by essexjan at 1:18 PM on December 28, 2005

I'd assume it's relatively harmless, or at the very least much less damaging than all the sugars and extra syrups ingested with sodas and energy drinks.

Brazil's Coffee Industry Association (Abic) is seeking the support of 50 roasters to launch a pilot "Adopt-a-School" program to feed breakfast to 1 million Brazilian school children aged 6 to 18... Under the plan, a coffee roaster would adopt a school of at least 500 children and provide them with a free breakfast of coffee, milk and bread.

I seem to remember reading a similar article that mentioned most children in South America are brought up with it from an early age. Their consumption was also related to their basic mental health in regards to hyperactivity and depression; it seemed to be employed in part to alleviate these issues.
posted by prostyle at 1:26 PM on December 28, 2005

I, like SteveInMaine, started early with the mostly milk + a little coffee around age 5 or 6, and was a full blown black coffee drinker by 10.

Like a negative tolerance, I find that the caffeine effects me much more at 25 than it did when I was younger.
posted by hominid211 at 1:29 PM on December 28, 2005

I'm guessing that kid consumes a lot less coffee than other kids consume soda, which makes the point that coffee has a higher caffeine content moot.
posted by cellphone at 1:30 PM on December 28, 2005

I started drinking tea at age 8, when I was taught to make it for my tired and deserving parents, and moved on to coffee in my twenties. We were a tea-drinking household, and 80s New Zealand did not have a lot to offer the discerning coffee drinker.

My ten year old daughter drinks weak tea. She's welcome to have coffee, but as far as she's concerned it's bitter and yukky.

I never ever thought about what was "appropriate", but I suppose some time around puberty seems about right.

Early tea drinking is a recognised public health problem here in New Zealand. Many Pacific Islanders, particularly Samoans, give copious tea to children from as young as three. Tea impedes iron uptake, and in children who are already not getting enough Vitamin C or iron in their diet it contributes to anaemia.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:38 PM on December 28, 2005

I drank coffee at age 5, with sugar and evaporated milk, whilst watching Captain Kangaroo at Grandma's house. Every Monday and Friday.

I'm five feet tall, shorter than my whole family including my mom, so who knows?
posted by konolia at 1:42 PM on December 28, 2005

I don't know, do 11 year olds drink coca-cola, Pepsi, or mountain-dew?

Seriously, kids get plenty of caffeine. It's kind of out of place for a kid to drink coffee, but she probably just likes the taste. Kids get plenty of caffeine as it is.

The first time I drank coffee I was in high school and worked at KFC, which served it. I was up all night and it was a very unpleasant experience, however, I think we can assume this girl knew her own tolerances. It's certainly not illegal.
posted by delmoi at 2:02 PM on December 28, 2005

I first drank coffee at 4 or 5 - Grandma would give me a cup of warmed milk, maybe 1/8th of that was coffee. Not enough to really give me a buzz, but it really made me feel like an important grownup at the time.

I didn't start drinking coffee on my own until high school, and then it was more for 'keeping warm' - the local grocery store had free drip coffee for the shoppers, and Wisconsin winters are fierce - so I'd stop in there for a cup to drink on the way home. I didn't start drinking it for the taste until college.
posted by spinifex23 at 2:10 PM on December 28, 2005

cosmicbandito, that paper looks ridiculous... Their data shows that increased caffeine intake correlates with longer sleep duration and weekends, yet they conclude: "catenated beverages had detectable pharmacologic effects. Limitation of the availability of caffeine to teenagers should therefore be considered." Am I missing something here? It is almost comical.
posted by Chuckles at 2:15 PM on December 28, 2005

When I was in fifth grade, one of my daily chores was to make coffee for my mom when I got up in the morning. At some point I started pouring a cup for myself, which continued until my teacher sent home a note saying that my handwriting had gone downhill. I think I picked it up again around my first or second year of high school, and it's been an important part of my daily routine ever since.

I'm about 5'8", by the way -- not tall by any means, but pretty normal for both sides of my family.
posted by Acetylene at 2:17 PM on December 28, 2005

The appropriate age for a child to start drinking coffee is when that child's parents thinks the child has reached an appropriate age. In my mom's case, I was in 3rd grade when she started to let me drink coffee. I was having trouble getting up in the mornings, and the cupa joe did the trick.
posted by Fat Guy at 2:18 PM on December 28, 2005

I was drinking tea at 7 and coffee by 12 or 13. As far as stunting one's growth goes, I'm almost 5'10" -- so perhaps I would have been a full-blown giant had I not had all that caffeine! :)
posted by scody at 2:19 PM on December 28, 2005

11 year olds drink mountain doo no? that stuff really packs the caffiene
posted by specialk420 at 2:19 PM on December 28, 2005

I started drinking coffee (also tea) somewhere around 10 years old and it didn't hurt me. If it stunted my growth, I can only say, "Thank goodness for that," as I'm 6'3".

This table list caffeine content in several foods.

I see a serving of coffee (7 oz) has about twice the content of a serving of cola (12 oz can) on this table, but a can of Red Bull has more.

I know that in Canada, Mountain Dew has none, and that's on this table, as well.
posted by Crosius at 2:39 PM on December 28, 2005

Heh, I'm with unixrat.

Started drinking black, high-caffeine-content tea when I was 3 going to dim sum with my grandparents after morning tai chi.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 3:17 PM on December 28, 2005

Going to the coffee shop was the only thing to do in my little town and so we went a couple times a week. While I never bought actual coffee (stuck with the aforementioned foofy ice drinks and such) it was most definitely available to me.
posted by sian at 3:29 PM on December 28, 2005

PST, as Konolia was drinking EVAPORATED milk the milkman would have nothing to do with it: evaporated milk is canned stuff you buy at the grocery store.

My Grandma would give me milk with a little coffee and lots of sugar in it when I was very sick. Sometimes she'd serve it in a bowl with milk or toast in it to eat like cereal. It made me feel better. But to feel like an adult I'd want hot tea with sugar and milk. Coffee was yucky stuff that only my mother drank regularly. (Dad was away at the time.)

When I was 11 (I think, maybe 12) Dad said I was grown-up enough to drink coffee and offered me some, so of course I learned to like it. It was that coffee was an Adult Beverage, I'd already been getting lots of caffeine (and sugar) from colas for years (besides the occasional tea). But Dad drank instant coffee black with no sugar, which I thought tasted hideous, so I started putting sugar in mine; then when I started getting heartburn (from lord knows what) I took to putting milk in it too. I did however graduate to "real" (non-instant) coffee, and sometimes I'll grind and maybe blend the beans. The mocha java I had this afternoon was a treat.

I'm with the people who think kids drinking coffee is not a big deal, and better than caffeinated sodas with all that sugar (or chemical sweeteners). But only if they want it, nobody needs to start a caffeine habit.

(Isn't this thread an example of "too chatty for AskMe"? Not that I'm complaining.)
posted by davy at 3:37 PM on December 28, 2005

I didn't start drinking any coffee or significant amounts of caffeine until I was in high school. Not that there was some prohibition against it, but my parents always tried to tuck me away in bed insanely early at night, meaning that I got a ton of sleep. Then they wondered why I never took naps :)

The coffee thing started when I did Science Olympiad before school in the mornings.
posted by dagnyscott at 4:00 PM on December 28, 2005

FWIW, my daughter's 11 and, thankfully, hasn't expressed interest in coffee yet. I'm not sure I'd let her have it. We let her have one Coke a day, although she doesn't want one ever day. From what I've read, a Coke has about 1/3 the caffeine of a similar-sized cup of coffee. Her brother, who is 5, has only had caffeinated soft drinks by accident (some orange sodas have it, some don't, and sometimes we don't read the labels close enough). We're hardly food fascists (far from it!), but I don't need them any more hopped-up than they already are.
posted by SashaPT at 4:46 PM on December 28, 2005

I work full-time for *$ (starbucks; yes, pelt me with the organic, fair-trade beans from local coffee shops-I'm used to it by now), and we see an amazing amount of elementary and middle school-aged kids come in EVERYDAY before and after school. Many of them order surgary-espresso-based drinks such as vanilla lattes and caramel macchiatos and the occasional unsweetened Americano. So, at first I thought it to be unusual, but it seems rather commonplace.
posted by sara is disenchanted at 5:00 PM on December 28, 2005

the starbucks i regularly pass by never have customers that are older than the clerks..

i'm not worried about the caffeine or the habit/addiction, but somehow i wonder whether coffee might be bad for kids' stomachs.. does that make sense?
posted by suni at 6:39 PM on December 28, 2005

what is an appropriate age to start the caffeine habit?

I'm going with "Never."
posted by knave at 7:59 PM on December 28, 2005

Let's see... when I was 11, and heading over to a friend's house for a sleepover, we'd pick up a 12-pack of Coke, which would be gone by morning. So, on the assumption that my experience is universal: unless her cup of coffee has about 18 sugars in it, I'd say that girl is on her way to a relatively harmless habit.
posted by staggernation at 8:17 PM on December 28, 2005

Coffee is pretty good for you, because caffeine is pretty good for you.

SUGAR BAD, SUGAR VERY BAD. Let your kid have coffee, or coffee and milk. NO SUGAR.

Need I repeat myself? SUGAR BAD. And no soda. Ever.
posted by ewkpates at 5:54 AM on December 29, 2005

I am pretty sure my little brother used to drink coffee when we were little kids. He would have been at most 7. (Though, he might have been drinking tea, my memory of the time is a bit of a blur.) As others have said, coke is probably worse for you than coffee. Though, it does seem like a strange habit for an 11 year old to have.
posted by chunking express at 6:51 AM on December 29, 2005

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