Pros and cons of computer coding for kids

Updated: Oct 22, 2020



Photo credit: Zachary Smith


It is almost universally thought that teaching a foreign language to a child is beneficial. Often times, the only way you can truly be native level in a language is if you begin speaking as a child. As the advancement of technology becomes more and more prevalent in our daily lives, we should wonder whether programming languages should also be taught at an earlier age. This will ease kids into a technological world and where future jobs will most likely involve computer proficiency. However, just like learning a new language, coding is not for everyone. Here, we will discuss the pros and cons of signing up for a coding class.

Computer science is mainstream. Technology has been evolving rapidly, making it hard for our institutions to stay up to date. The internet was installed in our homes less than 40 years ago and schools have tried to keep up with the advancement of the digital world. Since 2014, British children must learn the fundamentals of programming in school because they need to understand the digital world and develop those skills for the future. In Australia, schools started to implement mandatory coding classes for students for the same reason. In 2016, president Barack Obama also announced his plan to give students the opportunity to learn computer science by providing $4 billion in funding for states and $100 million for districts to train teachers.

Understanding technology requires you to be up to date and continue to learn. Technology evolves so fast that change can be troublesome for the population. Although digital literacy should be mandatory in schools, there is still a lack of trained teachers to show kids how to use software and programs. Some teachers themselves are scared of computers and need to be taught before they can teach others. The advancement of technology greatly conveniences our daily lives, we should be continually arming schools with the latest useful teaching tools and practices. If your kid’s school isn’t optimally up to date with technology and you’d like to open your kid to computers and coding, here are some tips:

How and where to start coding?

Nowadays, you can find any format to learn how to code. You can ease into coding by reading, watching Youtube videos. Luckily, most of the resources are free! Please check out Code Academy, you can sign up for a free and pro account. You can even find cheap tutor online to begin learning. There's no single way to learn, because each person is different There’s no good approach to learning, the important part is to be comfortable with the pace and having fun while solving problems. The more problems we solve, the more we learn how to think. Most people emphasize that coding is also understanding logic since the goal is to give tasks to a computer to resolve assignments.

Coding bootcamps have increased in popularity recently. They're becoming popular because they allow absolute beginners to pick up coding right away. They allow you to build a strong foundation from scratch with limited time. For that reason, they can be ideal for very motivated people to begin coding. Bootcamps don’t necessarily require prior experience and people can progress in a matter of weeks. Course Report has specifically designed summer bootcamps and also has specifically designed bootcamps for children. A wholesome platform called Switchup allows you to pick your goal first and they’ll match you with a bootcamp. However, even if most of the content and lessons are free and useful, be aware of the platform’s policies. Some bootcamps and training courses may give you good content, but their programs are not accredited. Check with their credibility, reviews etc. before signing up if that is important to you.

A potential extra-curricular activity

Music, sports, and volunteering are excellent extra-curricular activities that provide skills outside the classroom. There’s no reason why coding shouldn’t be considered a noble hobby. If a kid is starting from scratch, consider using Scratch, an introductory programming language. Beginning with a programming language like Scratch will give you a broader sense of programming concepts. With Scratch, you can drag and drop codes to practice coding your own interactive stories and games.

The risk about extracurricular activities is that some kids may not love it or be good at it while parents are over-invested. Coding, just like any other hobby, should be explored but not forced upon a child. Kids and parents who believe that coding will lead to financial wealth and job stability in the future will feel disappointed. There are many ways to be successful without learning how to code.

Coding and the brain

Learning a programming language may be a child’s way of expressing him or herself. Some kids have struggled in reading, writing and comprehension, however they can excel at coding. Succeeding in this area can increase one’s self esteem and help the kids work further in their niche and develop their own creativity.

Learning how to code provides educational and social benefits, such as better math skills, increasing academic motivation for science projects, and using technology to develop creative ideas. Learning computer coding also increases cognitive abilities, as it increases reasoning, problem solving and planning ahead (Clements & Gullo, 1984).

Coding can help you develop critical thinking by breaking down problems into small parts and understanding how each part relates to each other. Practicing this approach will be beneficial since this is what life is about. When we encounter a problem, we usually break it down and solve matters that require the most attention first. Prioritizing in a logical way will also help organize your thoughts and be more productive in less time.

The drawback of encouraging children to spend time in front of the computer or on their smartphones is that it can lead to internet addiction, which can affect kids’ mental health, add stress and interfere with homework (Samaha & Hawi, 2016). Furthermore, the addiction to being online can lead to kids preferring screen time over socializing and confronting problems.

Bonding activity with family or friends

Have you lost your job during the pandemic and are looking to broaden your skill sets? Have you always wanted to connect with your kids over an activity? If you learn how to code with your kids and make it a fun family activity, it will benefit all of you. Moreover, working as a family unit can strengthen collaborative and social skills.

Is your child not into summer camp? Is s/he more of an indoors person? If you’re in need of a challenge, introduce hackathons for your kids. Hackathons are events where programmers compete to build a product, a website or a game while using a software or hardware within the span of a weekend. Although, hackathons contain the word “hack,” it doesn’t refer to hacking per se, but coding. This can be a fun family activity of trying to achieve/build something over a weekend. Kids can also attend workshops and network at an early age to help their skills and have fun. Working in teams isn’t always easy, so practicing listening and teamwork will add an essential skill for character building

In conclusion, learning how to code can bring educational and cognitive skills to your children. It’s a useful skill to have in a digital world that is constantly expanding. There are many resources to learn for free and increase your problem-solving skills, however, be mindful of their accreditation. Parents are usually well-intentioned and would like to encourage their children to pursue useful hobbies that can lead to successful careers. Even if careers that involve coding are in demand and have great potential earning, kids may not like it or be good at it and that is okay. Even if kids won’t necessarily pursue a career as a web developer or a software engineer, their digital literacy will be advantageous for their daily activities and resume later on. Coding is a fun and valuable skill to learn as a family or with friends. There are social events, such as hackathons that can bring people together to compete and share skills. Encouraging a kid to learn how to code is a good idea. However, for some people, a pen and a paper is the best tool, so it’s fine to let your kid decide whether they want to pursue it or not.

References

Clements, D. H., & Gullo, D. F. (1984). Effects of computer programming on young children’s cognition. Journal of Educational Psychology, 76(6), 1051–1058. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-0663.76.6.1051

Samaha, M., & Hawi, N. S. (2016). Relationships among smartphone addiction, stress, academic performance, and satisfaction with life. Computers in Human Behavior, 57, 321–325. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2015.12.045