OPINION: Time to invest in the next generation

My son, only 17 months old, knows how to turn on my iPhone, he’s seen me use it so much.

The other day he saw me playing Super Mario 3D Land and stopped to crane around and look at the screen (don’t worry, I turned off 3D), before pointing to Mario and shouting ‘hiya’.

He, like many young children – yours, your friend’s or the ones you see on the bus – are what have been termed ‘digital natives’.To them, technology is a right, not a privilege. Their earliest meaningful encounters with literacy and reading will probably be via a screen, not a scribble.

They will know virtual characters and pixel-built environments as well as they know the street they live on and the relatives they visit.

Like many other parents, I’m seeing this revolutionary generational shift first-hand, so maybe that’s why the Next Gen Skills campaign struck such a chord with me this week.

But even the most emotionless businessman will see the bottom-line gain an effort like this offers the industry. The Government has confessed it has botched up ‘information technology’ teaching, and is listening to how it can improve it, and might even be open to getting actual computer science in the curriculum. That in turn can result in a knowing generation of Brits that understand how things work and can be creators of content, not just consumers of it.

And to a parent like me, faced with a kid growing up in a world without discs and dominated by servers and streaming, that’s electrifying.

I want my boy to be encouraged that he could be one of the people capable of writing Microsoft Word itself, not just someone who knows how to boot it up (if my first choice for him of crime-solving astronaut doesn’t pan out, that is…).

Next Gen Skills has already made an impact, and has the potential to do much, much more. So there is no reason why any company in the UK computer and video games industry shouldn’t be supporting it. Get involved.

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