The organizers of the Hour of Code campaign recruited an impressive band of international athletes like Kobe Bryant, Marcelo, and Serena Williams to promote the movement to teach coding in schools. Ivanka Trump apparently took coding classes with her daughter (or planned to, anyways). And then there’s Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg—tech giants who often use the public forum to encourage kids to learn programming.
Computer literacy has been a hot topic in education for well over a decade. But is it really that important? Public schools aren’t required to teach coding specifically– according to Common Core standards, they just need to teach the skills required for basic computer literacy. And if schools aren’t required to teach coding, it couldn’t be that important, right?
Oh… so very, very WRONG.
In fact, coding is one of the most important skills we can teach our kids.
1. Coding skills provide job security
Knowing how to code gives our kids what we, as parents, haven’t had in our recession-laden, adult lives: that slippery thing we call job security.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, the market for IT and computer-related occupations is projected to increase by 13% between 2016-2026 with an additional 557,100 jobs. This rate of growth far surpasses the average for all occupations.
We all want to help our children develop the skills needed for success. Teaching your child to code will provide her with one of the most marketable skillsets—a skillset she can bank on even in the craziest economic times.
2. Coding provides a nice paycheck
Job security is important, but success is even better. And coding is pretty much a sure-fire way to get there.
Three of the top 10 highest paying jobs in 2018 were computer-related, according to a Glass Door survey. The national average salary hovers around $40k and US News reported that computer programmers earned a median salary of $82,240. Now, this figure represents the national average; in markets like New York and San Francisco, where the cost of living and demand for coding skills is high, that number is much more—well above $100,000.
Sure, money can’t buy happiness, but I think Bill Gates would agree that it sure helps!
3. Coding builds a better brain
Coding is much more than the memorization of some weird computer language. When children learn to code, they develop skills and processes that extend well beyond the keyboard.
Coding is a language, and learning a second language at a young age improves memorization and cognitive ability. Coding is also scientific in nature; the computational thinking required of coding involves the formation of a hypothesis, the structuring and planning of tasks, and the analysis of outcomes. These steps all require the use of logic, critical thinking, and executive functioning. Finally, it works the creative side of the brain– coding is as much the development of a creative idea as it is the implementation of an algorithm.
Coding is like the CrossFit of brain exercise.
4. Coding builds character
When it comes to achievement, strong character is as important as cognitive ability or talent. A child can have a superior intellect, but if she doesn’t have internal fortitude and motivation, she won’t go nearly as far.
Coding requires patience—the execution of a design involves planning, and sometimes a lot of small steps to get to the “big picture.” Coding also requires resilience—this is an activity in which tiny errors cause huge problems; there’s a lot of checking and rechecking that goes into the work. It is also requires perseverance—coders often need multiple attempts to get something just right.
Overall, the very study of coding helps foster grit—an attribute which many experts say truly determines success.
5. Coding is good, healthy fun
Coding is not the seizure-inducing 0s and 1s, endlessly scrolling down a green and black screen like in The Matrix. Well, maybe in the advanced stages… But for beginners, coding is much more like a video game or a complex, digital Lego project. It’s everything that kids love: building, video games, and storytelling all wrapped up in one.
And the best part—coding is healthy screen time. Rather than playing a violent videogame, or passively watching YouTube videos, it’s an educational use of their beloved electronics. Coding truly is a parent’s greatest weapon in the battle over screen time. And it’s a battle your children will enjoy losing!