Is coding for kids ? Yes! Kids everywhere should be taught coding with as much pedagogy and importance as they learn mathematics. Not only does that prepare them for the future, it also massively increases the potential salary they can earn as an adult. For its not an understatement to say that today, the world belongs to the best programmers. Some of the richest men in business and technology are all geniuses who started to learn how to code as kids. And computers have integrated themselves so much into our daily lives that today, we cannot think of a single profession where computers are not used. In short – learning to code is the technical A, B, Cs of the future.
Coding is a creative process and an enabling process. It gives the average John Doe abilities that were earlier associated only with the super-rich and extravagantly wealthy. The truth about technology is that today, one well-designed app or program can propel you to fame and money beyond any other profession in the world. The beautiful thing is that it’s fun but at the same time and immensely enjoyable for those who love intellectual challenges.
Coding is a creative process. You are building this digital entity out of the files, operating systems, compilers and frameworks that exist on your computer. As a creative process, for those with a flair for mathematics, coding is fun and immensely enjoyable and easy – although some problems leave you stumped at times. But the joy of the creative process always remains with you and never gets old, regardless of what programming language you may be learning. And it is highly important to teach your child to code, perhaps in their early teens or even younger (depending upon the child). Why? Read on to find out.
1. Coding teaches kids important life lessons. I’m not kidding. Learning to program requires three fundamental traits – persistence, determination, and discipline. It also requires willpower and determination as a young child to sit down at a computer and learn how to code when all she or he wants to do is engage in actual physical play. Kids learn that to succeed, persistence and determination are critical. It teaches discipline and willpower because unless you have the bravery to start again after your initial efforts result in failure, your persistence to keep trying and think of new ways to solve this problem are what will define you as a programmer. But much more importantly, it will define you as a fundamentally mature and capable human being.
2. An early gateway to riches and a lucrative career. Money is, of course, not important – says everyone who has plenty of money! Money is a key determiner of the quality of both your life and the life of your loved ones. What better way exists to ensure that your kids have a bright future than to teach them important skills early on in their lives? Studies indicate that the available salaries for software engineers wherever they are in the world is 33% higher on average than non-software jobs. The best paying jobs are the software jobs, across the world, across industries. If your kids could have a gift for coding, you are committing a crime by not giving them early exposure to this aspect of life. And as a concerned parent, the best way to lead your child to a career in programming is to involve in it yourself.
3. Programming teaches communication and soft skills. This is an indirect effect of becoming a better coder. As a budding software engineer, you often have to work in teams. If your child learns how to work in teams early on in his/her life, they learn how to communicate with others. They learn group dynamics and how to collaborate with other people in their group. Eventually, they have to present the work that they have done and will even need public speaking skills. All these things will come with the right direction if the child is exposed to them at the right age, both mentally and physically.
4. Programming opens the true potential of the entire world to kids. The future will belong to the better skilled. The world of software is a world full of get-rich quick stories. Programming can give your kids access to create his or her own ideas into products. Often in fun and refreshingly enjoyable ways. The future will be digital. It is a fair bet to make that the only jobs that will exist in the long run are software jobs. Simply because as artificial intelligence advances, intelligent robots will take over most industries because they will be cheaper, easier to maintain, and more accurate than human beings. In the long-run, automation is the most future-proof field as far as obsolescence is concerned for choosing a profession, simply because robots will always need to be engineered, programmed and maintained.
5. Learning to code increases your kids’s IQ. This may be a chicken-and-egg story, since kids with higher IQs will always be better coders. But in the long run, even in the most general case, performance in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) is increased significantly when kids are taught to code early. This could be a result of the discipline required to master a language, or the development of the willpower to succeed in life, as mentioned earlier. Study after study has shown increased skill in STEM papers and improved productivity go hand-in-hand with the development in programming skills. This has been the case across nations, cultures, languages, races and even varying financial backgrounds. Why wouldn’t you want to make your kids smarter?
This is a controversial question. Some argue that even kids as young as 7-8 years old become geniuses when exposed to computers early on. And there are many cases of kids growing exponentially intelligent when exposed to computers early. But the right answer is that it is different for every child. Every child develops in different ways. Perhaps the best way to get your kids interested in computers is to expose them to computer games. But no, I’m not thinking about Halo Wars or World of Warcraft or League of Legends. In fact, exposing kids early on to high intensity games like that can result in early burnout, with the child getting used to extreme levels of entertainment all the time from a young age.
There are many types of computer games. There are high-intensity games like DOTA and Starcraft II, and there are games like Scratch. In general, the argument is, stay away from high intensity games. Your kids could be exposed to a lot of unhealthy influences far too early. Introduce them to games that teach. Scratch, for example is a game that teaches computer programming. There are ‘gamified’ methods to learn nearly every topic under the sun, from mathematics and programming to English and computer art. Expose your kids to educational games from a young age. Involve yourself in their learning and in their lives.
Introduce your kids to the world of educational computer games. And never force programming down their throats. Kids need to be self-motivated. They will be remarkably happy with the right introduction to the subject, definitely not from you if you have had a bad history with computers, so skilled CS teachers are important even from a young age. A child forced to study, forced to code, forced to work hard and obey without question often makes a very unbalanced adult. All their lives their parents have been telling him or her what to do, and facing life alone, suddenly, he/she could become demotivated or engage in self-destructive behaviour such as substance addiction.
A child should work hard with guidance, not by force. And no child force-fed programming will ever enjoy it, because programming is one of the most solitary occupations on this planet. They have to learn to enjoy it for themselves. They need supervision and guidance, not remote-controlled behaviour. Teach them to take responsibilities early on and frequently. Your kids are your most valuable asset. Parents often sacrifice their entire lives for the well-being of the child. Teach them to enjoy Scratch, mathematics, and educational games – but definitely not, say, World of Warcraft! Today’s MMORPGs can be as destructively addictive as substance abuse.
Finally, try to be kind to yourself as you parent your child. Mistakes are often frequent both for you and for the kids. Your kids will learn your own behaviour in the long run and not what you tell them to do. Understanding that, be a role model in every aspect of your life. To conclude, understand that educational games are the answer, and that most computer games these days are bad for kids. If your child is using the computer, he or she needs supervision as a basic need, it’s definitely an absolute must. Your child could be potentially a brilliant technologist. Keep looking for opportunities like a kid’s special educational program in your school or a summer camp – a fun way to learn computers while at the same time engaging with human beings in a healthy and productive fashion.
Also remember – programming is a left-brained activity, along with mathematics and logical thinking. Some kids never take to programming and prefer to excel in their own way. Encourage them – with discretion. The more artistic and design-oriented kids – who are a significant percentage of the world’s population – might never take to programming in the long run. Despite my conviction that programming would be one of the best possible ways to develop the potential in your child, it might be worth waiting a little. Some kids never take to programming. If properly taught, anyone can learn – but if badly taught, they will view it as a mathematical formality that requires hard work like multiplication tables. It needs to be approached with the something like the appreciation that one has for beautiful art – with the same levels of wonder. And it is possible. But your kids will definitely need your intelligent guidance and inputs very often over the course of their entire lives.