SEVERAL centuries ago when I was a kid, one of the things we looked forward to was the weekend newspapers.
In those days the Sunday Mail came with several pages of comics and a centre spread called ‘Possum’s Pages’.
Possum’s Pages was a mixture of articles for kids, articles by kids, artwork by kids, jokes by kids, letters from kids and a mixture of puzzles and crosswords designed for kids. There were also competitions for writing and regular colouring-in competitions.
Getting something published in Possum’s Pages was an aspiration for many of us. It was something to cut out and take to school to brag about on Monday morning.
As I recall, the Friday issue of the Post-Courier had something shorter but similar back in the 1960s.
In this digitised age of social media, where we have seen the demise of many newspapers, a viable substitute for something like Possum’s Pages has yet to evolve.
There are a few blogs around directed at kids but they seem to be run by big publishing companies like Penguin and National Geographic, mainly interested in selling children’s books and magazines.
There is no equivalent of an interactive blog like PNG Attitude for children, a PNG Attitude Lite, not even a weekend version.
In the social media revolution kids seem to be a lost demographic.
This doesn’t mean that kids aren’t using the Internet. They are inveterate users. What is worrying is the stuff they are viewing and reading, stuff like pornography. What sort of adults are they going to be with a background like that?
In our quest to encourage literature in Papua New Guinea it is an area we have largely overlooked.
While we have encouraged writers of children’s stories we have tended to overlook the kids themselves. There is no place where they can read children’s literature, comment on it and offer their own take on the world and its events.
That kids have a point of view and want to express it has been left in no doubt when you consider the pioneering work done by Francis Nii, Jimmy Awagl and the other fine people of the Simbu Writer’s Association, especially their production of high school anthologies.
If we see the encouragement of a reading culture among children as important for the future of Papua New Guinean literature, it seems to be a significant omission.
Or perhaps it is a need we have recognised but for which we know the extensive commitment of resources like time and effort are just not available.
As a society we rail against what the kids are accessing on their mobile phones but we offer no healthy alternatives. Just as we offer no healthy alternatives to our many other social ills.
Maybe it is time to take stock of our kid’s digital futures in this new and dangerous post-Trump world.