A Guide for Parents: What is Coding and Why Is It Important for My Child to Learn?

We’ve all heard of computer coding, but what exactly is code? Today, we break down the details of this valuable career skill and why it is so important for children to learn computer literacy in today’s age.

When we think of people writing computer code, mental images of “hackers” perched over laptops often come to mind – but this couldn’t be further from the truth! By definition, the word “code” itself implies some level of secrecy. In reality, learning to code encourages transparency and problem-solving ability; and when students begin coding, they are really taking the first steps towards understanding an internationally recognized computer language.

One of the wonderful things about learning a computer language is the freedom it grants the writer to create without bounds or restrictions. There are many, many different types of computer languages – one that most people will recognize is known as HTML (HyperText Markup Language). HTML essentially powers the web, and the electronic documents used to display web pages (like this one!) are created using this language. Knowing HTML is a valuable skill in itself, and the structured nature of its design is often appealing to younger students who want to create their own web page or content to express their individuality.

More complex forms of code, known as programming languages, take things to the next level by allowing for variables. Programming languages can be used to solve equations, carry out tasks, and much more – which is why they are used for software, apps, appliances, and nearly every high-tech electronic device we use today. JavaScript, Python, and C++ are some common programming languages you may have heard mentioned in popular media.

Programming encourages executive functioning by promoting problem-solving ability, troubleshooting, and communication skills. Learning to code benefits young children in nearly every aspect of their academic journey – reading, writing, mathematics, and sciences. Studies have shown students as young as 3rd grade obtain higher test scores in these areas after being introduced to computer science. But that’s not all – the benefits are just as relevant for older students, too. According to the College Board, students who studied computer science outperformed others on some of the most challenging Advanced Placement exams (like Calculus and Statistics). Recent studies also show that students who take AP Computer Science are up to 34% more likely to enroll in college.

So what makes learning a programming language such a valuable skill? Learning to code offers students a unique combination of freedom not found in other activities. At the same time, the organized nature of coding itself (working with languages) makes it easy for younger students to understand, including children with exceptional needs who may prefer structured activities. Learning to code allows students to approach unique challenges without the stress of “failed attempts” while also encouraging persistence and problem-solving skills.

Looking forward to the future, computer science and programming careers consistently rate as some of the top jobs available. It’s never too early to start thinking ahead!