What's the Right Age: Drinking Coffee

Why Kids Like Coffee

Those of us who found coffee too bitter as children might wonder just what our kids see in the beverage. When today's parents were growing up, they saw mom and dad -- and other such non-cool adults -- drinking coffee. Today, there seems to be a trendy café on every street corner, even in the suburbs, and young celebrities like Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen are frequently photographed with "venti" Starbucks cups in hand, an accessory nearly as fashionable as the latest designer pooch or Fendi handbag.

Alongside those celebrity photos is the message that we all need a jolt to keep up with our fast-paced lifestyle. While most of today's parents had lots of free time for play during childhood, many kids now have schedules that are packed as tightly as an adult's. TV commercials show animated characters using energy drinks to perk them up, and kids learn from those images. 13-year-old Chelsea from Donnelsville, Ohio, first tried coffee when she was in the 5th grade: "I felt kind of sluggish in the morning, and I needed something more to go on," she said. Many of the kids her age at her church use energy drinks as a pick-me-up, but Chelsea doesn't like how they taste. She drinks iced coffee some mornings to give her energy, and believes that the 6th grade is a good time for kids to try coffee. "With all the pressure put on you in the 6th grade, coffee might kind of help you in the morning," she said.

Also, while coffee choices used to range from regular to decaf (or maybe French roast if you were bold), now the choices seem almost limitless. Coffee-based drinks with chocolate can appeal to younger people who may not be able to tolerate plain coffee's bitter side. Coffee drinks also come in fancy cups or topped with whipped cream and chocolate swirls -- such bells and whistles can be irresistible to kids.

Are those lattes damaging our kids' health? Read on to learn if coffee is bad for your child.