Think the Elf on the Shelf is a cute little holiday tradition to keep your young one on their toes? Think again.
Laura Pinto, a digital technology professor at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology recently published a paper concluding that Santa’s little spy “sets up children for dangerous, uncritical acceptance of power structures.”
When children enter the play world of The Elf on the Shelf, they accept a series of practices and rules associated with the larger story. This, of course, is not unique to The Elf on the Shelf. Many children’s games, including board games and video games, require children to participate while following a prescribed set of rules. The difference, however, is that in other games, the child role-plays a character, or the child imagines herself within a play-world of the game, but the role play does not enter the child’s real world as part of the game. As well, in most games, the time of play is delineated (while the game goes on), and the play to which the rules apply typically does not overlap with the child’s real world.
“You’re teaching (kids) a bigger lesson, which is that it’s OK for other people to spy on you and you’re not entitled to privacy,” she tells the Toronto Star.She calls the elf “an external form of non-familial surveillance,” and says it’s potentially conditioning children to accept the state acting that way, too.
“If you grow up thinking it’s cool for the elves to watch me and report back to Santa, well, then it’s cool for the NSA to watch me and report back to the government,” according to Pinto.
According to the report, some parent bloggers agree with Pinto’s conclusions. However, others think she’s gone overboard with a fun holiday tradition. Pinto also fails to criticize the Elf’s Jewish counterpart “Mensch on a Bench” for exhibiting the same surveillance state tendencies since the Mensch spends his nights watching the menorah, not the kiddies.
Is this another case of academia gone too far, or is there something to this notion of Big Brother Elf?