Energy Shots Aren't Your Teen's Real Problem

Jeanne Sager

can topPoor, poor teenagers. Pediatrics just announced parents shouldn't be giving their teens energy shot drinks, and the kids are mad. Don't you know our kids are exhausted?

They sleep until noon and slump on the couch playing video games all day. What's a teenager to do without their caffeine-loaded bottle of artificial crap? Er, yeah. The debate over whether these drinks are a safe option for tired kids has left me laughing this week because I am the working mother of a 5-year-old. What I wouldn't give to be as "tired" as I was when I was 15.

But the thing is, teens are tired. And it has more to do with their whacked out sleep schedules than it does with a need for more caffeine. Teenagers are like babies. They need more sleep than the average adult because they're at a critical phase in their growth. The average teen should be getting a good nine hours a night.

But when my daughter's 18-year-old babysitter, a senior in high school, was given a health class assignment that instructed her to average out how much sleep she gets a night, it came out at 4 1/2 hours on a good night.

She'd get more if it weren't for the homework. And the 5:30 a.m. start time in order to get up and moving and to school by the morning bell. And the weekend job to sock money away for college. And dance class to get exercise and blow off steam. And did she mention she has more homework to do? Any surprise she totes an energy shot to English class?

She's more the norm than the exception. In a 2006 National Sleep Foundation study, only 20 percent of teens get the recommended amount of sleep nightly. They also found that at least once a week:

  • 28 percent of high school students fall asleep in school
  • 22 percent fall asleep doing homework
  • 14 percent arrive late or miss school because they oversleep.

Kids grabbing these energy shots is simply a symptom of the greater problem. Our kids are sleep deprived. And there's no easy fix for it. Least of all a caffeine-loaded bottle of artificial crap. So we can take away the energy shots, but that's not going to make our kids a whole lot healthier.

Do your teens ask for the energy drinks?


Image via [F]oxymoron/Flickr

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