A professor is warning parents that using Elf on a Shelf for their children’s Christmas may result in harming a child’s view of the world, preparing them for a time when a “Big Brother” government may be watching them.
The opinion, given by Dr. Laura Pinto of the University of Ontario Institute Of Technology, compared the Elf on the Shelf to a dystopian police state called Panopticon. Panopticon is a prison surveillance system developed by 18th century philosopher Jeremy Bentham. Bentham proposed a prison with a central tower that was surrounded by prisoner cells. Backlighting in the tower made it impossible for prisoners to discern whether they were being watched, prompting them to follow the rules at all times as seen here.
Philospher Michel Foucault pointed to the Panopticon model to demonstrate modern societies who may use surveillance as a tool to make citizens follow the rules and for disciplinary purposes.
Pinto takes Foucault’s opinion, and used it to warn parents in a recent article for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. She warns that the elf is used to make children behave at all times, whether they are present at the home or not, and can prepare them for a future where Panopticon is allowed. Because children have to follow the rules of not touching the elf, Pinto says, they can’t discern that it is a game.
Elf on the Shelf is based on a children’s book, written in 2005 by Carol Aebersold and Chanda Bell. The book, and accompanying elf doll, tell children that the elf will be watching them and reporting on their action’s to Santa. The book has become wildly popular, and in 2013 had sold over 6 million copies.