Tim Cook: I keep my tween nephew away from social networks

Commentary: Speaking to students in the UK, the Apple CEO also says learning coding is more important than learning a foreign language.

Chris Matyszczyk
3 min read

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.

Apple's New iPhone X Goes On Sale In Stores

Not a Facebook fan?

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Facebook and its ilk have taken a beating of late. 

Even former executives have admitted they fear social networks are doing terrible damage to kids' psyches.

Now there's another senior tech figure who seems to be holding a crucifix up to the vampire of social networks. 

Apple CEO Tim Cook admitted on Friday that he's wary of the effects of too much tech and social networking in particular. 

As the Guardian reports, Cook was speaking to students at Harlow College in the UK when he said, "I don't believe in overuse [of technology]. I'm not a person that says we've achieved success if you're using it all the time."

This thinking is in line with two important Apple shareholders who recently suggested the company do more to curb tech addiction among the young. (Apple responded by saying it would introduce more parental controls.)

Cook, though, is especially concerned about his own family.

"I don't have a kid, but I have a nephew that I put some boundaries on. There are some things that I won't allow. I don't want them on a social network," he said.

Facebook didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. Neither did Cook. 

Cook's nephew will soon be a teenager. The minimum official age to have a Facebook account is 13, yet some have said for years that this is regularly flouted. Some estimates have put Facebook participation among under-13s at 7.5 million.

A recent UK study showed that 51 percent of 12-year-olds and 28 percent of 10-year-olds have a social media profile.

In December, perhaps to address this reality, Facebook launched a Messenger Kids app specifically for the under-13s.

Cook's words, therefore, can't be catnip to Mark Zuckerberg's company. Somehow, the criticisms of Facebook just keep on coming. Why, even the pope last year suggested that humans should resist "the false image of reality" social networks portray.

Zuckerberg has declared that this is the year in which he gets around to fixing the site, as if this can be done.

Some things in tech are truly impossible.

While in the UK, Apple's CEO also weighed in another important tech topic: coding. His statement was contrary to one earlier this week, from Google CEO Sundar Pichai, who insisted that an education in tech should involve more than just coding. 

Cook, however, declared:"I think if you had to make a choice, it's more important to learn coding than a foreign language. I know people who disagree with me on that. But coding is a global language. It's the way you can converse with 7 billion people," he said.

I worry.

I tend to converse with people through old-fashioned forms of communication such as the eyes, the smile, the sense of humor and the stopping to think what they might be thinking and feeling. I also find that people appreciate you at least trying to speak their language, rather than yours. 

If we all started to communicate through coding, oh, what dull conversations we would have. 

Those of dry countenance may also worry that communicating through coding was exactly what Apple did when it secretly slowed older iPhones in order to preserve the batteries.

Even Cook himself admitted this week that Apple might have, well, communicated better. 

Technically Incorrect: Bringing you a fresh and irreverent take on tech.

Special Reports: CNET's in-depth features in one place.