‘Elf On A Shelf’ Conditions Children To Accept Life Of Surveillance, Professor Claims

Elf on the Shelf is a “disturbing cultural phenomenon” which forces children to accept life in a “surveillance state,” according to Ontario professor Laura Pinto. The best-selling children’s book sparked a new Christmas tradition in millions of American households. The book has sold more than six million copies since it was published in 2005, and was a part of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade for the first time in 2013.

Laura Pinto is a digital technology professor at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. Pinto recently published an academic report which argues that the Elf On The Shelf book fosters a “sinister” message. The “Who’s The Boss” paper claims that the idea of an elf reporting back to Santa Claus each night in regards to the behavior of children, “sets up children for dangerous, uncritical acceptance of power structures.”

Elf on the Shelf is a story about how Santa’s “scout elves” hide in homes to watch the activities of little ones. When everyone goes to sleep, the elf flies back to the North Pole to inform Santa Claus about the events of the day – both the naughty and the nice. Before the family wakes each morning, the elf flies back from the North Pole and picks a new hiding place inside the home.

Since the elf chooses a new hiding spot each morning, the family can engage in an ongoing holiday game of hide-and-seek. Professor Laura Pinto has deemed the Elf on the Shelf “an external form on non-familial surveillance” that will condition children to accept surveillance by the state as well.

“If you grow up thinking it’s cool for the elves to watch me and report back to Santa, well, then its cool for the NSA to watch me and report back to the government,” Professor Pinto told Inside Halton.

Since most children outgrow the notion of Santa Claus by the time they are 5 or 6, it is unclear how many of the “growing up” years are negatively impacted by the alleged surveillance. Once the belief that a magical man flies around the world giving free toys to good girls and boys has evaporated, the Elf on the Shelf “surveillance” for placement on the naughty or nice list likely loses its muster as well.

Dr. David Kyle Johnston called the Elf on the Shelf a “dangerous parental crutch” that uses the same rationale as the “Santa lie,” in a report for Psychology Today.

What do you think about the Elf on the Shelf “surveillance” claims by professor Laura Pinto?

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