Mental Health Awareness Week: coding and game-building help children

Screentime can have a proven positive effect on your child’s confidence, development and overall wellbeing.

This week it’s Mental Health Awareness Week – a week dedicated to raising awareness of the value of caring for one’s own mental health.

But whilst adults can recognise the signs of their own poor or deteriorating mental health, children can find that negative thoughts and feelings creep up on them – causing unavoidable challenges they may not be able to contend with. 

Brands like Code Ninjas are supporting their students to help alleviate some of the stresses caused by everyday life – situations that have, no doubt, been intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In fact, the kids coding brand actively encourages students to find solace in the one pastime society are often so quick to challenge – screen time. 

“Despite the negative connotations that come hand in hand with children’s access to digital technology, studies have proven that children who learn to code in a collaborative and engaging atmosphere are likely to become more well-rounded, confident and capable – and therefore more employable – in the future,” explained Grant Smith, the brand’s VP of education.

“In this day and age, it’s natural for parents to feel strongly about monitoring their child’s activities, screen time and even friendship groups.

“In a COVID-era, keeping our children safe, in both a physical and mental sense, is all the more important. By allowing your child controlled access to the things they thrive on, like gaming and coding, this can make up part of a balanced approach to create wellbeing and introduce skills that will benefit them for years to come.” 

As a testament to this, a recent study found that 77% of parents believe that coding is the most important skill that their child will need to succeed in the future¹.

And whilst the media would have us all believe that any screen time is innately bad, to be feared by parents trying to raise happy, healthy and well-rounded children, a study by UNICEF2 has actually shown quite the opposite to be true.

Not only can screen time be positive, it is also a critical tool that teaches your child a valuable and transferrable life skill: communication. The study even goes as far as to say that no access to digital technology can actually have a negative impact on your child’s development.

In 2021, screen time isn’t just inevitable, it’s crucial. We need to fall back on the familiarity and convenience of digital tech because, quite frankly, without it we wouldn’t get anything done.

So, if you’re feeling those pangs of parental guilt because your little one’s screen time has increased over the course of the last year, then here’s Grant’s definitive list of the positive impacts of digital literacy for children.

Take comfort in the knowledge that the tool you’re turning to out of necessity – and sometimes in desperation – can have a proven positive effect on your child’s confidence, development and overall wellbeing. 

Screen time equips children with communication skills

It’s clear that digital technology is our go-to tool for keeping in touch with loved ones. Nowadays, many young children could dial their grandparents into a video call without any parental guidance!

But this ability to virtually connect with the wider world is one of the biggest positives of screen time for kids. It’s their window to a broader, more connected world and a crucial lifeline for maintaining a sense of normality until such a time that families can be fully reunited.

But there really is so much more to it than that. Studies show that online social interaction has a positive impact on a child’s ability to communicate – especially for those with less self-confidence who sometimes struggle to make friends.

Screen time teaches children how to communicate, even when they’re not necessarily using it for that reason. Time spent navigating technology, both online and offline, develops a child’s ability to problem solve and think logically, encouraging them to speak concisely and reach resolutions.  

Screen time is a source of happiness  

Think of how your child will happily ask Alexa or Siri to play their favourite song, or the joy they get out of their 9am exercise session with a much-loved influencer. In their minds, this happiness is no different to the excitement of having pizza for dinner or playing in the garden with their siblings.

To a child, activities are simply categorised as good or bad. By allowing your child a healthy amount of screen time, you’re not giving in – you’re simply making their day a little brighter.

Screen time increases confidence

Being proficient with technology teaches kids to have confidence in their own abilities. Generation’s Z and Alpha are way more confident with tech than we ever were as kids because it’s so commonplace in their world.

Essentially, they could soon have the ability to teach us, their parents, how to navigate technology. They’re digitally savvy, with a real understanding of how they can utilise technology to make life easier. This skill is something that is bound to benefit them later in life, as their abilities – and therefore confidence – grow. 

Screen time encourages creativity 

Utilising digital tools for a practical purpose, like learning to code or build games online, is a great way to inspire your child’s creativity. Free software, like Scratch, gives kids the opportunity to create interactive stories, games and animations, using their imagination.  

And here’s where those all-important life skills come in again; once your child has created their own game, you can bet they’re going to want to share it with friends and family! To do that, they’ll need to use their communication and logic skills to demonstrate their understanding of what they have built to teach others how to play it. 

“A fundamental part of increasing a child’s ability to deal with real-world scenarios is to equip them with every possible opportunity to explore their own passions and skills,” added Grant.

“This past year has been a challenging one for us all, but it is our children – the next generation of thinkers and achievers – that will bear the brunt of the societal shift in action and behaviour.

“There are toddlers that have only ever known life in isolation, pre-schoolers who have missed meeting other children their own age in person, and teenagers forced to celebrate academic achievements virtually.

“As a parent, the best thing you can do for your child as we finally come out of lockdown is just let them be themselves for a while. Whether they’re a football fanatic, obsessed with dance or have a passion for building computer games – let them explore what it is they want to explore.” 

To find out more about Code Ninjas and the specialist coding curriculum they provide, visit www.codeninjas.com

1 CodeWizards, 2020, Online School Struggles.  

2 UNICEF, 2017, How does the time children spend using digital technology impact their mental wellbeing, social relationships and physical activity? 

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