Teaching kids digital literacy is more important now than ever before. As media devices become more accessible and gaming apps for children increase in popularity, kids need to be able to understand the technology they’re using and how to do so appropriately.
The importance of digital literacy
By the time a child reaches primary age, they can confidently access the internet, play games and watch on-demand TV shows. A whopping 42% of 5-7-year olds now own their own tablet*. But this doesn’t mean they’re digitally literate. Digital literacy means having an innate understanding of the processes and languages behind the screen. So, why is it so important?
Digital technology advances on an almost daily basis. Whilst a large proportion of us entered the world of work with an acceptable understanding of Microsoft Office, that just isn’t going to cut it when our offspring are competing for the jobs of the future. Prospective employers of Generation Z (born 1996 to present) will expect more than the ability to upload a selfie to Snapchat or load a video on a monitor. At the very least, it’s likely they’ll need to understand how to navigate and recreate the processes that operate apps, websites and other tech-driven systems. We must assume that, as technology continues to evolve, so does the skill set required to keep up with these advances.
Just as we would teach kids to swim, tie their shoelaces or ride a bike, we need to equip them with the necessary skills to thrive in a digital world. As a parent of two, I know first-hand how much of a priority it is to set children up with the tools they need to do well in life. That’s why I believe that ensuring your children understand the fundamentals of digital media is just as crucial as their other weekly activities.
The issue lies in the fact that children consume digital media habitually. They recognise the sequence of navigating tech but don’t understand the process. The next time your kid picks up a tablet or a smartphone and loads their favourite YouTuber’s latest video, ask them how the video loaded, or where it had been stored. I’ll bet they couldn’t offer a response but then again, most adults couldn’t answer the same question. Now, it’s important to mention that this is nothing to be ashamed of. As a parent, it isn’t your job to know everything about everything. But there is a way to plug this gap in your child’s knowledge, equipping them with a whole host of transferrable skills for their future. You might even learn something along the way.
Teaching kids to code is a great way to build confidence in their ability to navigate our digital world. It isn’t just about drilling into them the knowledge of app creation or website design, although that definitely is a bi-product. It’s teaching them to think logically and critically, problem-solving, how to work as part of a team – much like how game developers work – and breeds creativity too. Refined, these skills will contribute to your child’s ‘employability’ once graduation rolls around.
The best part? Learning to code is fun. Gone are the days when computer programming refers to a bank of guys in suits, frantically inputting code at a rate of knots. At Code Ninjas, kids learn to code by building their own video games. They get to build and program robots with their friends and, once they’ve completed building a game of their own, they can share it via the app store. Imagine that achievement on a university application!
I don’t believe in encouraging the concept that kids need to know what the future will hold, right now. It’s much more important that they’re given the freedom to be young, carefree and enjoy life before adult responsibilities take hold. But I’m a real advocate for setting your kids up for the best start in life. Technology isn’t going anywhere, and neither is our children’s obsession with it. By managing it and offering kids a resourceful way to build a better future for themselves, you’re one step ahead of the parents who absentmindedly pacify their children with the latest smartphone or tablet.
David Graham is the founder and CEO of Code Ninjas, a world-leading kids’ coding franchise. For more information about Code Ninjas, to find out when a centre might be opening near you – or if you’re interested in opening one of your own – visit www.codeninjasfranchise.co.uk.