September 27, 2005

from the Stupidest Ideas In The World Dept.: Caffeine for Kids

"I have more energy and I like them a lot. I would suggest that anyone try them!" 12-year-old gymnast Taylor Foster continued, "!!!!!" She was talking, of course, about Spark, the caffeinated drink for kids from the Texas-based direct marketing firm AdvoCare. Taylor appears in advertisements for the powdered beverage, which is also a hit with her 11- and 7-year-old brothers. [their take: "!!!!, !!!!!"]

The NYT has a shockfest article about what a colossally bad idea supposedly performance-enhancing drinks for kids are, and I totally agree. This company markets its stuff through parents and coaches, people who are righttherenexttoyourkid, and they target kids as young as 4 years old.

But Spark has 120mg of caffeine, as much as a Big Gulp, while the 4-year-old version has as much as a 20-oz. Coke. Put in terms of drinks that kids might actually get their hands on on a semi-regular basis, I think we're already in a big mess.

Fortunately, MY kid knows it's "Daddy's Coke," so as soon as my buzz wears off, I'll rest easy.

A Sports Drink for Children Is Jangling Some Nerves
[nyt via dadtalk]
Drive for Big Profits Sparks Caffeine Drink for Toddlers [dadtalk via dt reader mark]


My six year old drinks a tippy cup full of coffee everyday for the last two years, well half a cup of coffee half a cup of milk.


Not meaning to pry or judge or anything, but why? What made you decide to start giving coffee to a 4 year old on a daily basis?

[I remember going on an overnight field trip to the beach in NC in sixth grade, a huge deal for us, and at hotel breakfast in the morning one of my friends ordered coffee. The rest of us sat in stunned, awed silence. -ed.]

My 8-year old drinks coffee all the time, but since she's been diagnosed as ADHD it's actually to slow her down. It really freaks visitors out when we tell her she's getting hyper and maybe she should get a cup of coffee!

Little Irish kids grow up drinking tea (with milk, of course). I don''t remember any ill effects. Since we also ran around outside all the time--and had real recess at school--I guess we just burned it off.

I suppose the difference is about moderation. I remember getting tea from my aunt when I was quite young, like 7 or 8. The difference is that my aunt would give it to me like once every couple of weeks when we visited and my parents would let me have some as a treat every once and a while. The companies that market this stuff want your kid to drink it instead of water.

The same goes with sports drinks like Gatorade etc. I drink a halved version I make with the powder when hiking. And I'm carrying 40 lbs on my back and going up hills, and I'm prone to serious dehydration. What is a kid doing that can't be replaced (hydrated/whatever) by some water or juice?

He has ADHD and was too tiny for medication. He can drink a cup of coffee at bedtime and still go to sleep.


Thanks- I learned something new.

Our 14yo has been drinking coffee since he was 7yo because he too is diagnosed as ADHD. It really does help him focus and be more in control of himself. BTW, caffeine for kids is also a cultural thing, in many parts of Latin America kids are given Mate (which is a type of green tea and also has caffeine) or coffee with milk as part of their breakfast. And I seem to remember reading in a George Elliot novel that it was commonplace for children to drink black tea at tea-time during the 1800's.

While this Spark thing is clearly a ludicrous product marketed at what I can only assume is a bunch of Earl Woods-wannabes, I agree with Cameron about the aggressive marketing of sports drinks that are also aimed at kids. My son and I had this discussion about a year ago, when Sports Illustrated for Kids published a little blurb in one issue stating that WATER is the best liquid for kids to drink for staying hydrated during/after sports activities (something I'd been saying for years) and, in the next issue, they published what amounted to a retraction in addition to a letter from a Gatorade executive touting all the benefits of their product over plain water. Even my then 13yo realized the power and influence of advertisers on the media when he saw that -- he brought it & showed it to me in disgust. Is it really such a surprise then, to see this Spark product out there when so many public schools rely on their soft-drink vending machine revenue to supplement their meager budgets and when soft-drink manufacturers have been selling those cutesy half-size cans for over a year now (you know, the ones that would fit perfectly in a kid's lunchbox)?

Holy Bad Idea Batman!

My kid bounces off the wall for nearly an hour after just having watered down juice!

Micala -- interesting that they'd be so obvious about something like that. Was there ever any news coverage on it...highly doubtful, I know. And good job on raising a media-savvy kid. My stepson-to-be takes in everything he hears on TV or reads in a magazine hook, line, and sinker.

My complaint with stuff like Spark is that we're teaching our kids that the way to success is via self-medication. If a family gives their kid a little tea or coffee as part of their lifestyle or because ADHD, that's one thing.

But to market these products -- which have an awful lot of caffeine in them -- to kids is irresponsible and creepy.

[well said, Brett, thanks for weighing in (and for posting the story in the first place). -ed.]

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