Life is busy; as adults we know this all too well. While there are natural ways to fight stress and gain energy, many of us take short cuts. Recently, that popular choice became energy drinks. Adults understand they come with possible side effects, but age and maturity help to make an informed decision. For children, this thought process isn’t there. Energy drinks (Monster, Red Bull and Rockstar to name a few) are technically safe, but what harm is really being done to younger people, and are the negative side effects worth it?
Any adult can tell you caffeine affects people differently. Dr. Marcie Schneider, a physician in adolescent medicine, expands this idea to children: “For some people, caffeine enhances their moods. For others it makes it worse. For kids who have some anxiety . . . caffeine can really increase [it].”1 to the mix is only asking for trouble. Additionally, she adds that since caffeine is a stimulant, it could cause a change in appetite. Adolescents tend to grow rapidly, so a significant increase or decrease in appetite could cause unhealthy weight gain or loss. Registered dietitian Ann Condon-Meyers reminds parents, “When you have a kid who is drinking more than one sugary drink a day, it’s a set-up for obesity.” As caffeine is addictive, children are being set up to fail; they’ll require more stimulants to get through the day, while increasing their sugar intake. (Read: 10 energy drink dangers)
Sleepless in Los Angeles
Another side effect of caffeine is sleep; specifically, a lack of it. Parents of adolescents
know how important sleep is to their health. However, caffeine is inherently known to cause sleeplessness, which as Dr. Matthew Keefer explains, will only make things worse. “They probably need a good 8 plus or 10 hours a night and teenagers as whole tend to get a lot less sleep. Many use caffeine to stay awake, and using a drug to make up for a deficit isn’t good.” Again, creating a cycle of dependency at such a young age is anything but helpful. As adults we should know better, but as children they could be making themselves vulnerable to complications down the road.
So should we ban the sale of energy drinks to children? Probably not, but as educators we want them to understand there are better ways to feel energized. Caffeine is a drug and caution should be advised when using it, no matter your age. At the end of the day, everyone could benefit from trying a more natural approach to improving their energy. A quick search will leave you with tons of options, but my favorites are the simplest: exercise often, kick junk food to the curb, and drink water like a fish. The next time your kid reaches for an energy drink, make a pledge to ditch the shortcuts and work on living healthier lives, together. Children may not understand the anxiety they have, and adding an energy drink
1 Cox, Lauren. “5 Experts Answer: Is Caffeine Bad for Kids?” LiveScience. Web. 23 Feb. 2012