He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake, is somehow a perfectly acceptable line in a children’s song about Santa. It also perfectly describes the nightmarish surveillance scam that is ‘The Elf on The Shelf.’ Since the namesake picture book was released in 2005, it’s quickly become a popular tool for parents to make Christmas time more interactive. The story depicts a scout elf, sent by Santa every December to watch the children of the world and report back on their behavior. In the book, the elf gains its magic by being loved and named by a child. In reality, that magic comes from an instruction manual guiding parents to move the elf every night after the children have gone to bed. The actual elf itself is an immobile doll with no video equipment built-in, but it does well enough instilling fear into the heart of a child.
The story that accompanies the elf, which parents are supposed to read to their children, is a staunch reminder that the elf and Santa are always watching. The elf has no eyelids; it can literally never stop watching.
Elf on the Shelf isn’t just a scare tactic; it’s also a part-time holiday job. There are entire parenting guides devoted to creative and allegedly fun ways to position the elf so that kids will believe the elf has been traveling about the house and watching them, which is particularly creepy when you consider that some of these elves end up in the bathroom. (Shitting is, of course, an activity that gets one on the naughty list.)
Some might think that I’m too hard on a seemingly innocent Christmas tradition, but rest assured, I’m no grinch. I’ve seen what these elves can do first hand. My niece and nephew had their own elf, Juno, and they would always talk about the different places Juno would land in their apartment. My family just went along with this charade even though we were signing off on an adult elf, always watching our youngest members. Not only was Juno watching, but he was snitching to Santa about what those poor babies were getting into every day. Now that the kids are older and Juno is thankfully gone, the effect of his time amongst our family is still palpable. The kids see no problem with being perpetually watched, as is evident by my niece’s SnapChat account. My nephew has a propensity for snitching on his sister, which I can only attribute to the lessons he learned from Juno that snitch ass candy cane humper.
While I blame Juno for everything that went wrong with the youths in my family, the elf situation has only gotten more intense over the years. The elf on the shelf now has more accessories, including a frightening card that reads, “I’m back,” in a bold threatening font. If fucking up your kid’s idea of fun with a letter isn’t enough, there are also Santa/Elf dummy cams that people can buy. This is not the holly jolly Christmas of my youth; this is the arrival of Big Elf.
These are the same parents who are likely bitching about screen time, complaining about Facebook stealing personal data, and pasting tape over their computer cams out of paranoia; meanwhile, here they are preparing their children for the Orwellian future of elf surveillance. They’re the same adults that write think pieces about the amount of time kids are spending on TikTok. Of course, they’re on TikTok! The introduction of the Santa Gestapo into kids’ lives during their formative years has left them with a desire to always be watched. At least they’re giving everyone something worth watching.
For all anyone knows, Elf on a Shelf is all part of a government plan hatched by the overlords at the North Pole to lull the next generation into the surveillance state. Once they’re complacent, they’ll sign away all their rights to elfen AI. We may be witnessing an escalation of the real war on Christmas.
This year, choose to not snitch on your kids. Say no to the surveillance practices of the elf state.