Developing apps, finding bugs and generally being a whizz at all things digital is something that lots of adults wish they could do – not least to enjoy the pretty decent salaries paid out in the digital industries. Yet there’s a cohort of younger coders, entrepreneurs and general child geniuses that are forging a path in the industry, long before they even start university.
What can we learn from these tech-savvy kids? What tough digital challenges are they tackling?
Getting the right qualifications
For a job as a tech worker, there are several qualifications you’ll need to get, but just because they’re made for adults doesn’t mean that a small number of kid wonders haven't managed to get them as well.
Last year, Birmingham seven-year-old Muhammad Hamza Shahzad was in the news when he became the world’s youngest computer programmer.
Scoring 57 points over the pass mark of 700 on Microsoft’s Office Professional exam in 2015, then completing three more exams by the US tech giant, Muhammad now has every qualification one would need to strike up a career in the industry. Writing apps, solving complex computer problems and creating video games are just some of the things the youngster can do.
The same is true for Macedonian youngster Marco Calasan, who in 2010 was reported to have written an in-depth book on Windows 7, informed by his four Microsoft systems engineer certificates.
As well as being able to fix computer problems, being able to code is a pretty big prerequisite in the tech world, though once again, plucky young achievers have trumped thousands of adults to make the grade.
Take Thomas Suarez, an American who first rose to prominence in 2011, aged 12, when he presented a TED Talk on his successes in the world of coding. Inspired by Steve Jobs, he took to Apple’s software development kit, learning coding languages such as Python, C and Java.
With these he created apps such as the whack-a-mole-like Bustin Jieber, a location compass called Ping, and WiTag, a Wi-Fi-based version of laser tag. The youngster has since gone on to start his own company, CarrotCorp, and is currently trying to invent a super-fast 3D printer.
Not all kids are entirely self-made, of course, and it’s safe to say a lot of the time there’s a smart parent behind every techy tot. Creator of five apps and a speaker at SXSW 2013 aged 12, Ethan Duggen learnt how to code via the free code tutorial app Codeacademy, helped along by his web developer father, Rick Duggen.
Rick encouraged his son to code, but also gave his son lessons on app pricing, taxation, profitability estimation and more, providing a firm foundation upon which Ethan could succeed.
Solving big issues
While all of these intelligent kids are doing great things, it’s easy to think that they’ll only start really making their mark when they enter adulthood. Fortunately for us, that thinking is plain wrong.
Take New Zealand child genius Tristan Pang, whose academic achievements include having sat Cambridge International Exams since he was nine, particularly excelling in A-Level maths. Today Tristan is studying maths at the University of Auckland alongside his regular studies, but also runs an award-winning learning portal, Tristan’s Learning Hub, which aims to teach children maths, science, geography and programming in an easy to understand way.
Then there’s Ability App, an application being developed by 12-year-old inventor Alexander Knoll that helps disabled people find employment, service providers and disabled-friendly businesses and locations – if a blind person wants to visit a restaurant, for instance, they’d be able to search for locations with braille menus. Just weeks ago, appearing on The Ellen Show, Ellen DeGeneres provided $25,000 (£19,400) towards the app.
Kids are fixing our apps too. In May 2016, a 10-year-old Finnish child received a $10,000 (£7770) ‘bug bounty’ from Facebook for discovering a problem in Instagram’s code that meant comments could be deleted by any user. The youngster learnt his craft by following videos on YouTube, and hopes to get a career in information security.
As our kids become exposed to tech and programming at earlier ages, they’re getting the chance to get to grips with tech at every turn. So, if you’ve got kids, think about encouraging them to code – they could turn out to be the next Mark Zuckerberg.
And for the best tech online, don't forget to check out mobiles.co.uk.
Useful resources for getting started with coding:
Codeacademy - codecademy.com
Coursera - coursera.org
Udemy - udemy.com
Resources specialising in teaching young children to code:
Tynker - tynker.com
Code.org - code.org
Kodable - kodable.com