Elf on a Shelf, Children’s Version of The Secret Police?

The Elf on a Shelf craze hit 18 years ago, and I’ve had mixed feelings about it ever since. Is The Elf on the Shelf a wholesome holiday tradition for children or a 1984 “big brother is watching you” surveillance device? I’ve been semi-joking about this with my family for years until I read that various security companies and even some professors agree with how I see this.

The Elf on the Shelf was written in 2004 by Carol Aebersold and her daughter Chanda Bell. Bell suggested they write a book about an old tradition of an elf sent from Santa who came to watch over children at Christmas. By 2005, the Elf craze had taken hold; since then, it’s been a marvel of marketing genius. There are Christmas specials and elf dolls that are male, female, and of different races. You can get an elf doll that looks like you, which is how my elf interest started.

About ten years ago, I bought my husband an elf doll because I thought it looked just like him, which cracked me up. We had a ball hiding the elf and finding it the next day in some weird place, like on top of the chandelier or in the refrigerator. It was cute and fun until I started thinking about the actual elf on a shelf story and what it meant.

There is even an Elf hiding in the Christmas tree, watching.

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Each year at Christmas time, a “scout elf” comes to your house and hides. He then reports back to Santa if you’ve been bad or good. Parents have a way to control their children’s behavior for 30 days, and children get the terrifying experience of being watched by someone hidden. The other strange element is that they’re not allowed to touch the elf because it will take away its magic powers.

Adopt a Scout Elf on the Shelf
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Sweet Christmas tradition, my foot.

The children are under surveillance, and they better keep their mouths shut. They need to control what they say and do, or Santa will punish them. Santa, otherwise known as the government or maybe big tech. You get the idea.

Many children and adults alike love the elf tradition. It can be great, but maybe we should emphasize that the scout elf is discussing with Santa all the fun, good things children are doing with their families and the fantastic things they’re accomplishing instead of sending a message that Scout’ll rat them out.

Elf on the Shelf trapped in a jar

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In our world, I think it’s essential to think about the messages we send to children. Children have a lot of different influences in their lives, and they should be taught that speaking their minds is a positive action.
Sometimes, shouting and crying are necessary.

Then again, maybe I’m overthinking this because I wasn’t a well-behaved child, and some might say I should still be on Santa’s naughty list.

Merry Joltmas, All.


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