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My Kids Like Video Games, Should I Get Them Into Code?

By Leah Elzinga

“My kid spends all their time in their room playing video games. I’m worried they’re not making friends. At least they like technology?! Maybe you can teach them to code!”

Every six weeks or so I receive an email or request similar to this one, with frazzled parents begging me to teach their kid to code to get them out of the basement but… that doesn’t work. Here’s the thing: I love technology. I love the thing itself, I love the process of building it, and I love the people involved. In and of itself, though, technology isn’t the solution to all of our problems: people are

So let’s unpack this problem. Kid spends all their time playing videogames online. Ok, so this isn’t really a problem in and of itself. Is the kid still active? Gets their homework done? Let’s assume the answers there are a “yes”.Kid is anti-social. Ok, so this we can work with, but maybe not in the way you’d expect.

Here’s why: enjoying the consumption of something is a long way removed from wanting to be involved in its creation. Let me explain: I like consuming vast amounts of coffee. This doesn’t mean I want to open a Starbucks or run a coffee plantation. For most of the kids we run into, the same thing applies. Loving videogames is a long way removed from wanting to be involved in writing the code that builds them. It’s rarely the technology that they’re drawn to with videogames. It’s the storytelling. The competition. The sense of accomplishment and mastery. And, very often, the community. This is where coding workshops can actually help. Not by teaching the kid to code, but by providing an IRL community, one that loves many of the things they love, and understands what it’s like to be that kid in the basement.

My recommendation is nearly always the same: Sign your kid up for a coding workshop but also sign them up as a volunteer. In fact, sign them up to volunteer FIRST. Get them to run the registration table, or help with set up and tear down. Volunteering is one of the easiest ways to teach our kids social skills. It gets them talking to their peers (and even potential mentors) and it gives them easy ways to do it. They don’t have to think of a topic, they can just talk about the work, today’s project, etc. It gets them to start taking on groupwork without even realizing it! Before they know it, they’re part of a team and, I’ll let you in on a secret: the whole tech industry is one big ol’ team sport. 

At the end of the day, I’m always going to welcome your kid to our coding workshops, but I’m also going to wish more for them than just learning to write a little JavaScript. I want them to be engaged, community-minded, problem-solvers. I  want them to show initiative and creativity. I want them to take on risks and demonstrate leadership. Those are the folks we need more of in the tech industry and, ironically, those aren’t skills they’ll ever learn behind a keyboard. More tech probably won’t pull your kid out of the basement, but community and a sense of purpose just might.

Photo Credit Stefano Barbera

I’m just your average small-town Alberta gal bound and determined never to stay in her lane. Despite being a two-time college dropout and a stay at home mom for ten years  (to two rebellious young ladies), I now kick butt in the corporate financial and tech sectors by day, and am a passionate community leader by night. I’m dead set on improving the lives of women and girls in my community through a combination of mentorship, representation, opportunity, and technology. I proudly lead a merry bunch of misfits that are the Canada Learning Code team here in Edmonton, where we run more than 20 free or low-cost technology workshops for Canadians of all ages, and four huge annual events. I’m always up for a new partnership or collabs: hit me up! @bazinga.elzinga or