I hear this question from some parents. Even more worrisome, I see it in the actions of others who hold it as a tacit belief. “My son is interested in programming, but he is only 12. Why not wait a few years before encouraging him down that path?”
Just like saving for retirement, now is the time to start. Delaying just a couple years can cause widely different results. It comes down to some underlying assumptions being made about the next few years.
There will never be a perfect time to learn programming (or do anything for that matter), but waiting is likely to only make things worse. Each year in school the classes become more rigorous, demanding more time and attention after school. High school baseball takes more time than little league baseball – and you can substitute the word “baseball” for any activity. With each passing year it becomes more difficult to add a new activity.
Peer pressure is difficult to understand, but shouldn’t be ignored. Teenagers care about what their friends are doing and what is cool. You might believe your student isn’t susceptible, but you will likely agree with this statement: your student is more likely to feel peer pressure at 16 than 12. This is a particularly important factor for girls, where programming might be less understood by peers and anything nerdy is avoided.
There is also an assumption made about kids curiosity. “If my son is really interested in programming, he will still be interested in a couple years.” There is a window where a student’s curiosity is at its peak and also when a parent’s encouragement is most effective. Take a close look at these two windows and you are likely to find they won’t be open forever.
This doesn’t even mention the incredible benefits to starting earlier – the chance for compounding knowledge and the time to gain a deep understanding. Kids programming is more accessible than ever, with great tools and languages. You can get started with just a couple hours of programming a week!