Teens photographed in front of work of art get slammed on social media
Last year, a photographer posted a photo of some teenagers in front of Rembrandt’s ‘The Night Watch’ in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. The kids were seemingly so transfixed by their phones that they weren’t looking up to take in the gorgeous art that hung on the wall beside them.
Here’s the image:
Social media users were quick to jump on the “kids these days!” bandwagon.
— Chris Gunness (@ChrisGunness) January 15, 2016
— Bon Chevalier (@BonChevalier) January 15, 2016
@HarriettSG what a sad picture of today’s society!
— Jacqui Barker (@Jbarkerassist) December 7, 2014
A picture is worth a thousand words, but what happens when all the words are wrong? The teacher later confirmed that the students were researching a school assignment in conjunction with the tour. “It turns out that the Rijksmuseum has an app that, among other things, contains guided tours and further information about the works on display,”Jose Picardo writes on Medium. “As part of their visit to the museum, the children, who minutes earlier had admired the art and listened attentively to explanations by expert adults, had been instructed to complete an assignment by their school teachers, using, among other things, the museum’s excellent smartphone app.”
— Lammie Oostenbrink (@Iittlelamb) December 7, 2014
Here they are, transfixed by the art. Picardo writes, “I wonder, what is more likely to bring about the death of civilisation, children using smartphones to learn about art or the willful ignorance of adults who are too quick to make assumptions?”
Screens are everywhere, because they have taken the place of nearly every other medium. If this were a photo of children looking down at a museum brochure, it never would have generated the amount of criticism it did. Our kids are growing up plugged-in because that is their reality. As much as we can wax poetic about things like card catalogues, books, newspapers — the new digital landscape in which we all live has put those things at our children’s fingertips. We wax poetic about these items simply because of nostalgia. But our kids have never grown attached to many of these things we are so fond of, that used to distract us in much the same way that our kids are now distracted by screens.
Let’s give the kids a break. The assumption that every time a kid looks down at their phone they’re playing Candy Crush or taking a selfie is a lazy one. It is “willful ignorance” on our part to assume they aren’t engaging in a deeper way. There will always be a generational divide, but we need to get off our high horses and realize that our kids are evolving with technology. To expect anything different than that is a bit naive, and to slam them for being plugged in is unfair.