There is something really creepy about Elf on the Shelf and it's not just the concept of letting a rag doll magically see and report back to Santa. I've been annoyed by it for years and certainly never brought one in my home, but I now have family members with young children who are jumping on the bandwagon. I get it. All the kids are doing it.
The media's version of the birth of Mr. Elf is that it came from the book "The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition" written by a single mom and her twin daughters. I don't buy the story for a minute, but the story goes, that a single mom sat down one day with her twin daughters and wrote this book about a magical elf that is sent by Santa to watch over the children and report back their behavior. The author, Carol Aebersold, is quoted in a Today article "Aebersold, Bell, and Aebersold’s other daughter, Christa Pitts, self-published the book and sold it by personally explaining the tradition to buyers and families, one by one. “It was a bit of guerrilla marketing at first,” laughs Bell." Aebersold's "other daughter"? Odd way of putting it. Check out the article, 'Elf on the Shelf' turns 15: The secret history of Santa's little scout (yahoo.com). Guerrilla marketing my foot. She writes the book in 2005, claims nobody would publish it, then it sells 11 million copies, movies, and marketing that give Disney a run for their money.
Uh huh. That doesn't look self-published to me, but if that's what they say, okay.
Lucky lady I guess. Just two years after writing the book a nicely designed and packaged version finds it's way to a New York book store and in the hands of one of America's sweethearts? Did they already ban bags in New York in 2007? You'd think it would be in a bag, unless of course she wanted everyone to see what she purchased. The Atlantic columnist Kate Tuttle calls it "a marketing juggernaut dressed up as a tradition" whose purpose is "to spy on kids" and argues that one shouldn't "bully your child into thinking that good behavior equals gifts."
There's a lot strange that has happened over the last century. 2020 certainly takes the cake, but we know where we are today did not happen over night. The commercialization of depravity started a long time ago, and my theory is; there's money behind that doll for just that purpose, commercializing depravity. In fact, it's quite a marketing springboard as The Atlantic pointed out. Just look and this video where people are buying cameras to watch the Elf. You can't make this stuff up. People are installing cameras in their homes to surveille the surveillance! Hurts my brain to think about this.
The part that disturbs me the most is that it teaches kids to believe in magic, and that they have no right to privacy. Magic is a demonic force and bringing the Elf into your home is no different than inviting a demon to cross your threshold. If we take something useful from the vampire movies it is that a vampire can't cross your threshold unless you invite them. Know who else can't cross your threshold unless you invite them? The cops. Social Services, or any government entity that does not have a warrant. Let's keep it that way.
The professionals have spoken and the consensus is, the elf is not good for a childs' development. Professor Laura Pinto suggests that it conditions kids to accept the surveillance state and that it communicates to children that "it's okay for other people to spy on you, and you're not entitled to privacy." She argues that "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 ... The rule of play is that kids get to interact with a doll or video game or what have you, but not so with the Elf on the Shelf: The rule is that you don't touch the elf. Think about the message that sends." That message is, you are not in control of the little man watching you.
Get rid of it, and while you're at it, use is as a lesson to your kids as to why you are not going to play that game. Privacy, freedom and the fear of God are our inalienable rights; let's not teach kids that they are disposable for a new Lego set. If you think the doll is completely benign, I found a hot tip on how to restore the elf's magic in the event someone were to dare touch it, eyeroll. If you actually can fit planning activities for a rag-doll-surveillance-conditioning-tool, then just make sure your kids know it's not really magic, because that's just creepy.