Parents. Are you worried about the amount of time your children spend in front of a computer screen? Academic research and the popular press to-and-fro between demonising and celebrating the role of technology and education, but back in the real world the chances of weaning kids off of their consoles and PCs is ever less likely. One of our youngest readers, 12-year-old Nicholas Wells, sent us this essay to explain why he thinks that’s not a bad thing – and to reward him for being so proactive we’re happy to publish it and will find something from the office we can send out to say thanks. Take it away, Nic.

nic wellsParents always worry about their children sitting in front of a screen playing computer games but the computer actually does have some educational purposes. Programming. It may sound very threatening but it is actually quite simple and it helps with school as well. Programming is basically algebra so it will help children in Grade 7 and up at school. There are some special programs for younger children out there who may want to try make their own games. The great thing about it is that you are learning while you are having fun.

I would suggest starting with something like Scratch which is dragging and dropping blocks of simple code to form a single program. It’s good fun where you can make crazy animations or entertaining games. Scratch is perfect for those with little Maths knowledge and teaches them the structure of programming. For older children who are rather knowledgeable and want to dive straight into programming, should try something like Python. It is a simple yet powerful language and it is very versatile with special plugins such as Pygame for making games. It is a fully featured coding language and is used in Android. The game Battlefield 2 was made with Python [Ed’s note – Python was used for a lot of the scripting in BF2, and heavily utilised for moddding].

The website www.codecademy.org has interactive tutorials for several languages such as Python, HTML and Ruby all through your browser. It’s free so all you have to do is make an account choose your tutorial and get started. Scratch is made by the MIT Kindergarten Lab and is also free to download. There is also many projects made by other users available for download.

Programming is very important and we need coders in many businesses. Think of banking, if there are no coders security can’t be updated thus making the system vulnerable to attack and millions will probably be stolen.

As you can see programming is vital in many aspects of business and it is rather easy to get started. So next time your children ask to play video games think of introducing them to coding. You never know. They might become the next Bill Gates!

(Main image: Scratch, credit to 305b Coaches)