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Old enough to code, too young for the next step?

theowlsden profile image Shaquil Maria ใƒป2 min read

Photo by Luke Porter on Unsplash

disclaimer: this is based on my opinion

Over the last couple of years, I've been seeing a lot of young YouTubers (-20 y/o) creating videos about how they made thousands of dollars online. Now that I joined dev.to I'm seeing that there are a lot of young (13, 14, 15 y/o's) web developers that are emerging and asking about freelancing and making money.

I have no issue with kids learning to code, I actually encourage it. But my main concern is that they are way too young to be worrying about the financial aspect of the field. Most of them only know the basics of web development but are trying to make a fortune by freelancing. When I was 12 y/o my concerns were about winning games and my grades, nowadays their concerns are about making money as fast as possible.

Now, I am no expert in psychology, but I'm seeing on every social media platform that there are a bunch of young people that have some sort of mental illness, either depression or whatever. And I'm starting to think that there is a connection between their priorities to act like grown-ups before their age and their mental wellness. Kids should enjoy the simple things in life and learn, not worrying about making a fortune and be financially independent at the age of 15.

My questions to us adults (+18):

  • What do you think about this new trend of kids trying to make money from an early age, and worrying about all sorts of problems they cannot solve as youngsters?
  • What advice do you have for the upcoming generation?

My questions to the young devs (-18):

  • What is your motivation to dive into the tech world and what is your ultimate goal?

I really want to hear your thoughts on this topic, it's something that has been bothering me for a while now. Let's have a healthy discussion about it.

Discussion (16)

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denvercoder profile image
Tim Myers

When I was 10 I had a paper route, when I was 12 I mowed lawns, when I was 13 I got paid to Umpire little league games, when I was 15 I worked at Taco Bell.

Kids can and do earn money. This is just a digital version of that. I grew up dirt poor and I felt a need to help my mom as much as possible by working as soon as possible.

Your connection to mental illness is WAY off base. There is nothing wrong or abnormal about this behavior.

The ONLY concern I would have for minors working is that in some counties minors are unable to enter into contracts. I would be worried about people taking advantage of that fact.

For example, someone could contract a 15 year old to build them an app or website and then they could just not pay them by saying the contract is void.

So any minors should have a parent or guardian at least be aware of what theyโ€™re doing and possibly be a co-signer on any contracts to make sure they have legal standing.

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technoglot profile image
Amelia Vieira Rosado

I would be worried about people taking advantage of that fact.

Good point raised here. I feel like some teens may overlook this themselves. As you said, parents and guardians need to be involved.

Your connection to mental illness is WAY off base. There is nothing wrong or abnormal about this behavior.

What I interpreted is that teens spend time on socials and see things like: "HOW TO BECOME A BILLIONAIRE AGED 15" and they set those expectations for themselves. (We can discern the BS in that, they probably can't yet.) They then go in and blindly pursue fame, only to (at times) get gravely disappointed. That "social pressure" to be a billionaire straight out of the womb is what I think will drive some into depression and mental illness (if no one is there to help them keep their feet on the ground). Just my two cents. What do you think?

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theowlsden profile image
Shaquil Maria Author

Your connection to mental illness is WAY off base. There is nothing wrong or abnormal about this behavior.

Like I said that's what I am assuming, it might be way off base indeed. But social media is displaying this world of luxury and that everyone can get there easily, if you don't see that, then I think you don't really use the internet. Kids are easily influenced by their surroundings, if all they see is violence, the chance of them becoming violent is great. In the same way, if all they see is people evangelizing making money easy that is what they will pursue. And when they see that it is not that easy they might succumb to the pressure they set themselves and fall into depression for example.

Kids can and do earn money.

My issue is not kids earning money, it is kids focusing too much on earning money rather than enjoying life as kids without a lot of worries.

I would be worried about people taking advantage of that fact.

Totally agree with this part. This is one of my main concerns why kids and teens should not be dealing with that level of work. A simple side job like mowing lawns is less risky than signing a multi-thousand dollars project contract in my humble opinion.

So any minors should have a parent or guardian at least be aware of what theyโ€™re doing

I mean, if you are a parent that does not know what it takes to develop an app or website I don't think you are of very much help in signing contracts about that specifically, but indeed they can certainly help in some cases.

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technoglot profile image
Amelia Vieira Rosado

Howdy there! ๐Ÿ‘‹๐Ÿป This is a tough one...

What do you think about this new trend of kids trying to make money from an early age, and worrying about all sorts of problems they cannot solve as youngsters?

Making pocket money is alright. But full fledged freelancing at the age of 13? Not so ideal from my point of view. I mean, maybe they are geniuses, unlike me. But to be preoccupied with working at such a young age, goes a bit too far for my taste. Besides, here's a little gotcha. If a teen makes thousands of bucks working, the first thing I wonder is: are you paying taxes? Look, the world's going to sh!t as we speak and tax money (if used properly), is indispensable to keep a country running. So, if anything, if they make enough to pay taxes, I think they should. That's beside the point, ish, but I still thought it was important to address this one.

What advice do you have for the upcoming generation?

Slow down. Live in the moment. There's plenty of time to grow up. I personally wished to grow up fast and now I regret feeling that way. I wish I had enjoyed my teenage years more. Too late for regrets now.

Life is full of intricacies and there's a reason why we go through phases while growing up. So stop rushing through the phases of life. You'll only wind up with regrets that way.

(Or do as you please, really. I probably sound like an old fart to you. ๐Ÿ˜‚)

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theowlsden profile image
Shaquil Maria Author

Making pocket money is alright. But full fledged freelancing at the age of 13?

Sure, making some pocket money with a simple job (after school hours) is not a problem. But freelancing is a whole other ballgame, that is something serious that deals with contracts and responsibilities a kid has no idea of.

If a teen makes thousands of bucks working, the first thing I wonder is: are you paying taxes?

That is a million-dollar question right there ๐Ÿ˜…. Should they pay taxes like everybody else or because they are underage they are pardoned?

Good advice there, chill out there is no need to rush growing up.

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egilhuber profile image
erica (she/her)

From my experience, working teens do pay taxes! Less than an adult and you typically get a good chunk back at refund time, but I remember that first paycheck that was smaller than I expected.

Freelance work does make it more messy, though. When I was working fast food at 14/15, I just had to have my W4 filled out correctly and my employer deducted taxes. I haven't done freelance so I haven't done those taxes myself, but folks I know that have done it have found themselves annoyed with quarterly payments and whatnot.

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theowlsden profile image
Shaquil Maria Author • Edited

From my experience, working teens do pay taxes!

Good to know! I mean, they might as well๐Ÿ˜‚

When I was working fast food at 14/15

A lot of my peers did either work as waiters or in fast food restaurants and I think it's just like you said here too.

but folks I know that have done it have found themselves annoyed with quarterly payments and whatnot.

That's what I would expect tbh, they don't really have the know-how plus taxes & contracts are a pain do deal with. (unless their custodians explain that to them or take care of that)

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technoglot profile image
Amelia Vieira Rosado

that is something serious that deals with contracts and responsibilities a kid has no idea of.

BRUH! Even I have no clue how that stuff goes! Let alone a teen (well, unless they have parents in the field or an amazing mentor...or whatever)

Should they pay taxes like everybody else or because they are underage they are pardoned?

Pardoned? Naaaaah. More than anything they should be instructed on how the tax system works and how to be a responsible citizen that contributes to society. (LOL, I had to laugh at the sound of that ๐Ÿ˜‚) I mean....since you wanna make the fat bucks anyway, might as well teach you a thing or two about paying taxes.

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theowlsden profile image
Shaquil Maria Author

I have no clue how that stuff goes!

Same here! I should probably spend some time researching that.๐Ÿ˜‚

More than anything they should be instructed on how the tax system works and how to be a responsible citizen that contributes to society.

I think that should be added to list of "Simple steps to become a millionaire developer"

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technoglot profile image
Amelia Vieira Rosado

Same here! I should probably spend some time researching that.๐Ÿ˜‚

That makes two of us! ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿƒ๐Ÿปโ€โ™€๏ธ

I think that should be added to list of "Simple steps to become a millionaire developer"

And I rephrase: "Simple, complicated, mind-bending steps to becoming a millionaire dev!" ๐Ÿ˜Ž

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darkain profile image
Vincent Milum Jr

"What do you think about this new trend of kids trying to make money from an early age, and worrying about all sorts of problems they cannot solve as youngsters?"

Why can't they solve them? This isn't a new problem. IMO it isn't even a problem at all. I'm in my upper-30s now, but start programming at age 13, and was building circuit boards at age 12.

What did I do in my teens? Because an award winning software developer by coding solutions to problems not yet solved.

Was the code great? OH HELL NO. It was terrible! But I solved some interesting niche problems that netted me some superficial awards at the time.

There is nothing wrong with thinking in a career mindset at a young age, and certainly nothing wrong with making a few bucks while doing it.
If anyone would have told me to not worry about money (which I was making via tech as a teen), or to focus on other things? Then I probably wouldn't be a highly successful tech now over two decades later.

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theowlsden profile image
Shaquil Maria Author

I'm in my upper-30s now, but start programming at age 13, and was building circuit boards at age 12.

As I said, I encourage learning, and the younger they start the better. The earlier you start, the more you can learn and the more areas you can explore. Shouldn't we be encouraging them to learn and explore (both in tech as in social skills) while they are young so that when they are more mature they can make better decisions and be the best devs they can be?

Then I probably wouldn't be a highly successful tech now over two decades later.

If it worked out for you, then great! What advice do you have for a teen that is trying to start with development and monetize it at the same time?

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darkain profile image
Vincent Milum Jr

Its as simple as this....

1) Have fun.

2) Who cares about code. That's not important initially. Instead, focus on unique problems you face, and then build solutions to them. Sometimes those solutions include software, but not always. And then, share your solutions with others.

In the late 90's, early 2000's, we didn't have the multimedia capabilities we do today. We didn't have smart phones. We didn't have much by way of laptops. We have big ass tower workstation desktops. I just so happened to have a high end sound card with an infrared remote, and I wanted it to work with Winamp, the MP3 player of choice back in the day (remember, this predates the existence of YouTube entirely, let alone any music streaming services [okay, yes, we had di.fm, but THAT PLAYED THROUGH WINAMP]) - So, I learned just enough to make that remote work, then made the Winamp plugin and shared it with the world. From there, I was asked to work on more Winamp physical device interaction plugins, which one day ended up being a full suite that started winning various awards and $$$ contracts from hardware vendors.

I never thought much of anything at the time. I was just having fun, playing music, without having to touch my computer. It was THE FUTURE!

And I'm seeing similar innovation come out of teenagers today, too. Some are creating games, other movies, and in some instances, I saw an operating system!

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technoglot profile image
Amelia Vieira Rosado

By the way, forgot to mention. When I was a teen, I had NO IDEA what I wanted to become. NO IDEA. So yeah. Working was off limits. I didn't even work as a waitress in my teens! (like every other one of my peers). My parents wanted me to focus on school and the like. And I'm glad they did that. I think I have grown up somewhat gracefully ๐Ÿ˜ Thanks ma and pa!

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edwardpraveen89 profile image
Edward Praveen

I can relate this conversation with Quora Microblogging where youngsters of this era, keep on asking how to get One hundred thousand USD after college or Could I survive in big cities if I get One hundred thousand USD.?

I do wonder how do they think more about financial aspect after school/ college than enjoying their teen-age.

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theowlsden profile image
Shaquil Maria Author

Could I survive in big cities if I get One hundred thousand USD.?

My answer would be something like: "Can you cook and do the basic chores around the house by yourself?"

I do wonder how do they think more about financial aspect after school/ college than enjoying their teen-age.

I do hope we get an answer to this question. They ask too much about the financial aspect and you never see them asking about anything else (other than how easy X, Y, or Z is to start with).