Advice from a tech Mom on getting teens to learn to code
Like many teens, my son is interested in gaming and YouTube. As a tech mom, I was keen to encourage him to learn to code. He didn’t really understand why I am so passionate about tech, data and working hard at it. In the past month, we’ve made a real transition from his initial stance to having to drag him away from coding tutorials so he can get to bed at a reasonable time on a school night. I thought I’d share how I managed to turn it around, and I hope it helps.
I recognize that, as a parent, I can influence my teenager but the reality is that his peers are just as influential — if not more. So I decided to use that reality in order to help me.
Try a Hackathon. No, really. Try it.
You don’t need to code to attend a hackathon. People are friendly and happy to pitch in and show you what they are doing. It’s a great community way to learn.
As a first step, I decided that I’d take my teen to a hackathon so he could see other kids coding. He has been seeing me code since he was born and it wasn’t enough to switch him over to learning the skill by himself. Therefore, I worked out that he needed to see his peers coding. I took him to a Teens in AI event in London and it was amazing. There will be other hackathons and they are easy to find on the Microsoft events website or even Eventbrite. My son was inspired to learn more about coding simply from seeing other teens code, and how these programming teens were at the nexus of each and every project. In other words, the rest of the hackathon centred around these teens, and it was inspiring for him and also for me. At the end of the day, he was determined to learn to code and we agreed that I’d buy him a book on Python.
Books or online material?
I chose a book so my teen could learn to program. The reality is that online courses are great, but being online is a great distraction. I noted that he researched Python and saw this counting as ‘working’ but I wasn’t sure he was making the switch to actually doing coding. So I bought a Python book which really helped him to concentrate and feel a sense of achievement as he progressed through the pages. There will be many coding books which you can purchase on Amazon or EBay, or you can look in your local library.
Which language should you choose?
We chose Python because it has a focus on data and maths, plus it has good visualization so he can see the end result. The maths angle has the potential to improve his maths skills, and I believe that’s crucial for kids throughout the school years.
I’d also recommend that teens learn Office really well. Everyone thinks that they are an Excel expert but there is so much scope in Excel to do different things. Microsoft offer good tutorials for beginners and that’s a good place to start.
My teen is learning to touch type and that’s helping, too.
I hope that helps.