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Early exposure to coding? The reasons why some say it isn’t important.

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If you were to look to headlines for reasons to do or not do something, you’d find yourself in a perpetual state of limbo.

The Keto diet is good for you! Keto is terrible! 

Water is wet! New studies show water isn’t actually wet!

Kids should learn to code! No way—kids should not be coding!

I have some thoughts on keto, and I’m in the wet water crowd, but I’m here today to talk coding, and why it seems, for as much traction and positivity there is around it, there are just as many arguments against it being something kids spend their time learning.

First, something to think about as we talk about early exposure to coding. 

At what age can a child learn coding?

Kids can start learning coding as young as 7-years-old. Some might be able to get started younger with the help of coding toys, but we've found through our years of experience and many different coding courses for kids, young minds can start coding with something like Scratch at age seven.

So, when it comes to whether or not kids should or shouldn't be coding, the reasons for and against will vary by age; knowing that kids as young as seven can start putting the pieces together. 

Reasons why kids shouldn't learn to code

Given all of the above, here are a few things I’ve heard and picked up on when it comes to why kids shouldn't learn to code, along with my own personal commentary on where I agree and disagree, for what it's worth.

Coding isn’t for everyone. 

Just because something isn’t for everyone doesn’t mean that everyone won’t or shouldn’t be encouraged to participate. 

For instance, I was a good student, but STRUGGLED with trigonometry. Just didn’t like it. Wasn’t for me. 

Unfortunately, though, my personal preferences just didn’t matter at that time, and trying to opt out because I didn’t enjoy this particular math angle wasn’t a plausible scenario. 

So, I 100% agree that coding isn’t for everyone—how could it be? (Here is additional info and points to follow when answering if coding could be right for your child.) But that also doesn’t mean we should refrain from encouraging the masses to dive in.

From the segments of kids who give coding a shot, some will end up liking it and pursuing it further, and some won’t. Both outcomes are OK. 

Coding isn’t what it’s all cracked up to be.

Some say that coding shouldn’t be pushed so hard because there aren’t any promises that someone who learns to code will be successful in finding a well-paying job, and will end up doing that job well. 

I can definitely understand the root of this argument, as pretty much anything you see or hear about coding for kids will certainly be positioning coding in the best possible light. 

So, I don’t disagree that coding might not be all it’s cracked up to be...for some. But for others, coding can be all that and more. This is the case with pretty much every other skill and attached future occupation out there. Success is never guaranteed, and at times, might not be tied at all to how much effort someone puts into learning and doing that thing. 

But even so, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be encouraging kids to code. It can be said that developing skills in one area is better than having no skill at all, right? And in terms of opportunity cost, you’d have to think holding coding skills is pretty advantageous comparatively speaking. 

So, will it always work out? No. But there isn’t really one skill area and career occupation where that’s the case. 

Kids have better things to do than to learn how to code.

This is one where putting resources into crafting a detailed response just isn’t worth the effort. Really, it’s a completely subjective statement that has no mass application due to the fact that every single kid is growing up in different environments with different circumstances. Not to mention that “better” is also based on one’s own personal view on life. 

Some kids might have “better” things to do, and some might see learning to code as the most valuable thing their kids can be doing. Especially when it comes to motivating young learners, introducing new and different topics can be beneficial.

Forcing kids to learn coding might take the joy away from it

So, I can only use my own personal experiences to really help explain a few things with this point.

Growing up, I did a lot, and I felt fortunate to have parents who saw the value in me getting involved in something like team sports. 

All of it started for me at a very young age, and so really, the conversation around whether or not I wanted to play went something like, “Ryan, do you want to play baseball?” to which my response in some form was as simple as “yes” or “sure;” a head nod, whatever. I mean, I was 5 years old, you know? I’m not even sure there was a conversation. I just started playing. 

So looking at it that way, I was more or less forced to play baseball, and I loved it; it’s still a huge passion. 

And I was more or less forced to play basketball, and enjoyed it a lot. 

I was also more or less forced to play soccer, and. I. HATED it. Well, I actually enjoyed it for a few years but then just really lost interest. 

Point being, I was “forced” to play three sports and ended up playing two of them for years and years, with those sports still being a primary interest and a big part of my life. Soccer, though, wasn’t enjoyable, but it wasn’t because I was being forced to play...it’s because I just didn’t like it, and thus being forced to play from that point on made it that much worse. 

So, coding might not be interesting to everyone, and that’s what we just went through with the previous point. But pushing a kid to try coding might not be the root of them eventually not enjoying it at all. 

Kids spend too much time with technology already.

Ok. Again, this really depends on the student we are talking about...and “too much” is subjective. Not to mention that all technology isn’t created equal. 

I won’t go through all of the different scenarios, but the kid who is playing video games instead of doing homework might be spending too much time with technology in their parents’ eyes. The kid who won’t put their phone down at the dinner table might be spending too much time with technology in their parents’ eyes. And so on. 

But the kid who goes to school all day, comes home and gets their homework done, visits with the family, and then plays video games a bit before bed—is that too much technology time? It’s really up to that child’s parents to decide. 

Not to mention there is plenty of “good” in video games - and benefits of tech for kids in general - and that’s just a sliver of the different technologies a kid or teen can interact with throughout their days...some of which have a more obvious educational connection, and others that are purely for entertainment. 

Either way, there are way too many variables wrapped up in such a statement that it can’t really be used as a reason for kids not coding. 

All of this brings me back to the introduction above. No matter how crystal clear a situation might be; no matter how many facts and supporting data points are presented, there will always be an opposing viewpoint. This is nothing new, and not a surprise to anyone reading this. 

Nobody on either side of the argument is right or wrong, and the only people who can truly answer the question of whether or not a child should learn coding are the parents and the kids themselves. 

A photo of Ryan

Ryan manages blog content at iD Tech, starting with the company in 2008. He earned his MBA from Santa Clara University after obtaining his Bachelor’s degree from Arizona State. Connect on LinkedIn!

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