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Coding for children more important than learning a language

Parents happy to use the 'digital nanny' but still worry about the online risks

Posted by Hannah Vickers | January 22, 2017 | Primary

Almost half (44%) of British parents believe that it’s more important for their children to learn coding than learn a foreign language, while a third (33%) say that it’s more important than English Literature.

This is according to research from digital learning and certification provider OpenClassrooms which has found that despite this, parents are still deeply ambivalent about the children’s relationship with technology, worrying “constantly” about tech’s influence on their kids.

To show parents how they can better understand how their kids are using technology, OpenClassrooms has created a mini module on its site with the help of two digi teens, and Lorraine Thomas, founder of The Parent Coaching Academy.

Yet parents also deplored the negative influence that they perceive technology has on their children. Nine in 10 parents (90%) are concerned about the safety of their children online, while a third (33%) say they are “always worried”. Meanwhile, almost half (43%) say that their children spend more time on their devices than with their parents.

Parents want to protect their children and make sure they are developing and learning the skills that will help them succeed in the future

In spite of their worries about the dangers of the Internet, only a quarter (27%) of parents say they are worried about the amount of time that their children spend online.

The research also explored the impact that the rise of technology will have on future employment. Technologies such as automation and robotics – which is threatening to make many jobs redundant in the future – was a major concern. This is the second most important concern for parents after climate change worries (54% vs. 63%).

While parents believe in the importance of learning tech skills such as coding, just under half of respondents (43%) say that their children get a “great” digital education at school. Despite this, only one in 10 (10%) say that they have actively taken up the issue with teachers, and pushed school staff on the importance of digital skills.

Meanwhile, only a third (34%) have pushed their progeny to learn technology skills – although the same proportion (32%) say that their children already teach themselves skills such as coding and website building.

We need to be talking regularly to our children about the opportunities and risks that technology has brought into our lives. That’s why we have developed ‘Crack The Code’ with OpenClassrooms

Yet parents seem to underestimate their kids’ digital proficiency, with only a quarter (27%) saying that they turn to their children for technology advice. However, of those parents that do ask for advice, there is a big jump once the children reach the 8 – 10 age range, demonstrating how early children start exceeding their parents’ digital knowledge.

Lorraine Thomas, founder of The Parent Coaching Academy, said that the findings show that parents need to engage more closely with their children about technology if they are to help shape their future and keep them safe. 

“Parents want to protect their children and make sure they are developing and learning the skills that will help them succeed in the future,” said Lorraine.  “This can only happen if parents step into their children’s online world and inhabit it with them.  Most of the parents I work with find their teenager’s digital world scary and unfamiliar.  They don’t understand what their teenagers are doing when they are on their devices.  They don’t know how to handle their teenager’s relationship with technology – and because this is such a big part of their son or daughter’s life – it can create many challenges in family relationships.

“As parents, it is essential to create a strong, positive family ethos when it comes to technology.  We need to be talking regularly to our children about the opportunities and risks that technology has brought into our lives.  That’s why we have developed ‘Crack The Code’ with OpenClassrooms.  It’s a short, free online course that gives busy parents lots of practical tips that will help them understand their teenager’s digital world.  It will help them talk so that their teenagers listen and listen so that their teenagers talk.”

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