A new phenomenon is rapidly gaining interest in the programming world. That is the growing number of teenagers and even some younger children developing apps.
The most conspicuous example of this phenomenon occurred a few years ago, when a puzzler app by the name of “Bubble Ball” dethroned the mighty “Angry Birds” as the most frequently downloaded free application for the iPhone. And who was responsible for this ‘David’ to the Angry Birds ‘Goliath?’ A 14-year-old boy by the name of Robert Nay. But young Robert is by no means an isolated case.
It is a trend that seems to be gathering steam and perhaps this should come as no surprise. More than ever our lives are shaped by technology, but technology doesn’t arise on its own. It seems natural a generation growing up with technology as a massive presence in their lives should take an interest in how it is created and for what purposes.
Opportunities for Self Education
The Internet is nothing if not a powerful research tool, a fact these young developers are taking full advantage of. Most of the young developing phenoms that make headlines are self-taught, using resources such as YouTube tutorials, the growing number of coding teaching websites, such as Codecademy or Tynker, or even good old library books.
Many also credit Apple with making designing apps simple enough ‘that even a kid could do it.’ The number of resources available for those who wish to teach themselves to code is growing by the day, and there does not seem to be any reason for this trend to slow down any time soon.
The Rise of the Geeks!
In recent years the status afforded to technology and those that can master and manipulate it has grown enormously. It is seriously cool to be a “geek” nowadays.
Take the near cult-hero status accorded to the founding figures of the home computing revolution, such as Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Or witness the critical and commercial success of the 2010 Hollywood blockbuster The Social Network, which chronicled the development of Facebook by a 19-year-old Mark Zuckerberg. Among television sitcoms, The Big Bang Theory is wildly successful.
Compare these figures to the anxious, dark and otherwordly characters that populated films like the 1995 cult classic Hackers or the 1999 blockbuster The Matrix and we see it is a far more positive and enthusiastic, not to mention realistic idea of who computer programmers are and what it is that they do taking shape in the everyday consciousness.
No doubt this is influencing children, who may seek to emulate these corporate heroes and start the next big tech company, and what better way to do so than by developing and marketing an app!
Parental Involvement is Advised
Not only are children themselves attracted to programming by the newly elevated status it is being accorded in our society, it is reasonable to assume the recognition by parents that programmers are an essential part of the economy is having an influence as well.
A result of this is the growing availability of programming education. Across North America, in schools, public libraries and community centers the demands of children and their parents for coding programs are slowly beginning to be met.
In addition, private institutions are getting in on the action, offering programming camps, training courses and even provide financial aid for training such students. Some summer camps even offer coding courses alongside their more traditional offerings. More and more, programming is becoming an acceptable and encouraged hobby for kids.
Recent evidence clearly indicates programming is in the process of breaking a boundary that has perhaps limited it since its inception, from being the obscure interest of a fringe few to being a popular pastime of both practical and intrinsic value.
The Future of Youth Programming
There is no reason to suspect the phenomenon of kids developing apps will slow down anytime soon. While headlines tend to be grabbed by the actions of ‘young geniuses’ and ‘programming prodigies,’ it seems child developers are well on the way to becoming decidedly mainstream. As the resources for interested children continue to be developed, refined, and made available to kids, expect to see many more apps designed by kids.
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