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Fuel Your Child's Entrepreneurial Spirit With STEM

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Bill Gates started his first business when he was 15 years old. Mark Zuckerberg created his first messaging program "Zucknet" when he was 12. Elon Musk was only 12 when he sold the code for a video game he created in BASIC. And Marc Benioff founded Liberty Software, creating and selling games for the Atari 8-bitcomputer when he was only 15. While these are, perhaps, the most successful examples of an entrepreneurial mindset, the fact that they started down their paths to success at such early ages is something for parents to consider.

With kids exposed to technology earlier and earlier, and more children showing an interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects, it's likely that your own child could someday become a tech entrepreneur. In fact, a recent survey asked kids between the ages of one and 10 what they want to be when they grow up. While professional athlete and firefighter score high for boys, and teacher and chef make the top five job goals for girls, 41 per cent of girls and 32 per cent of boys surveyed want to pursue a STEM-related career, such as an engineer, a video game designer, a doctor or a scientist.

This is a good thing in today's economy, given every company regardless of what they are selling is on a journey of digital transformation, and that means a burgeoning need for tech talent. It's why my company, Salesforce, is putting a strong emphasis on encouraging and training the next generation by supporting and promoting innovative solutions in education and STEM programs.

Getting the basics down early could be the beginning of a future full of tech exploration.

Here are a few ways to help foster your child's interest in STEM subjects and to fuel their entrepreneurial spirit:

Raise a goalsetter. If your kid wants a new toy, let him or her come up with ways to earn it. Find an app, or even better learn to build an app, to track allowance or money they've made towards their goal. My colleague's 10-year-old daughter started her own dog walking business with a goal of making $100 per month. To track her progress, along with details about which dogs are best friends and when she has playdates scheduled with her puppy clients, she built a mobile app. Not only does it keep her organized, but it keeps her motivated to meet her goals.

Raise an explorer. Kids have an unquenchable thirst for learning, so why not let them explore what they're interested in? If your kids love playing video games, find opportunities for them to build their own. Programs like CoderDojo introduce kids to coding geared towards their own interests. Guided by mentors, kids can quickly learn to build their own apps, websites or games about whatever excites them, whether it's super heroes, horses, soccer, or anything else. Getting the basics down early could be the beginning of a future full of tech exploration.

Raise a communicator. Rather than banning your kids from social media outright, teach them online etiquette early. Educate them about trolls and other social media watchouts, not by scaring them, but by discussing how to handle potentially hurtful or threatening situations. Ask them how they'd respond or react to specific situations and delve into their thought processes. If they're too young to legally have their own social media accounts (the minimum age restriction for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google+, Snapchat, Tumblr, Pinterest and other social media sites is 13), have them help manage a shared family account, like your pet's "Dogs of Instagram" account. Dipping a toe into social media with some guidance may help them from acting irresponsibly when they're older.

Raise a problem solver. If you're tired of hearing about how homework is boring, broccoli is disgusting, and room cleaning is unfair, ask your kids for solutions. How could teachers make homework more fun? What vegetables contain similar nutrients as broccoli? How could you make it taste better? Imagine if cleaning your room was a video game: how would it work? What would you do? What would the different levels be like? Gamification is big business; it's predicted to be worth $10.02-billion dollar by 2020, so why not get your kid thinking like a gamification mogul now?

Raise a doer. Resist the urge to troubleshoot your child's iPad or a glitch on Netflix, and let them try to fix it first. Even if they can't figure it out right away, guide them through the steps you'd take to help teach them and give them a sense of accomplishment when they get their tech back on track. And if your kid's idea of time well spent is watching a steady stream of Minecraft videos on YouTube, volunteer to help make their own. The activity will help him or her learn to articulate steps and processes in plain language and understand what it takes to make a successful online video.

Giving your child the autonomy to be in charge of their tech will instill confidence and perhaps eventually lead to greater things. Who knows what your budding tech entrepreneur could come up with?

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