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Elf on the Shelf: Christmas Tradition or Conditioning for Big Brother?

Elf on the Shelf is a relatively new Christmas tradition in many American households that has taken the nation by storm.

University of Ontario Institute of Technology professor, Laura Pinto, recently published a paper which argues that the tradition helps train children to accept a Big Brother-type culture and a lack of privacy rights.
The professor writes:

“The Elf on the Shelf essentially teaches the child to accept an external form of non-familial surveillance in the home when the elf becomes the source of power and judgment, based on a set of rules attributable to Santa Claus. Children potentially cater to The Elf on the Shelf as the ‘other,’ rather than engaging in and honing understandings of social relationships with peers, parents, teachers and ‘real life’ others.”

In the tradition, families “adopt” one of Santa’s “scout elves,” which hides in the house to observe the children’s behavior for the month of December until Christmas. At night, the elf “flies back to the north pole” and reports what happened to Santa, and then flies back and hides again. Every morning, the kids find the elf hiding somewhere else in the house. The kids aren’t allowed to touch the elf, or else he will lose his magic.

Sometimes the elf is found in elaborate setups:

elf 1

elf 2

What do you think, is this an innocent tradition or a creepy way to brainwash kids?