When did we collectively agree that child cruelty for social media content is acceptable?
Maybe it’s the Scrooge in me, or maybe it’s the fact that I’ve never been a fan of experiencing family moments on social media, but the Elf on the Shelf trend on TikTok is a growing source of irritation for me — and many others. it seems – in recent years.
You’ve probably seen videos on social media of parents pranking their kids for the sake of holiday fun, and the social media craze has its roots in 2005, with the publication of The Elf on the Shelf by Carol Ebersold and her daughter Chanda Bell.
For many, of course, Elf on the Shelf is still a bit of innocent fun, but over time it has been co-opted by attention-seekers who make it all about them, not about children at all.
Why post to Instagram at all? Why not just keep it as something special for the family to enjoy? It’s gotten to the point where it’s earned the ire of many internet users – and not just Christmas nitpicks like me.
A mother previously sparked a backlash after being accused of overdoing it. In an Instagram video, the American shared that one of her pranks was to cut off a lock of each of her children’s hair while they were sleeping and blame it on the elf.
Despite a disclaimer that “no children were harmed in the making,” she was slammed by other Instagram users for the stunt.
One concerned viewer wrote: “I just think things like this should breed distrust and are a complete breach of safety and respect. I understand it’s for fun and a joke, but what does this teach the kids.
As well as being quite cruel in many cases, he can also be dangerous – one woman previously urged others not to follow her husband’s lead after his Elf on the Shelf display almost burnt down the house.
In a recovered viral clip, which has garnered 44.1 million views, the woman showed the little elf perched on top of their light fixture, his face burned by the heat of the light bulb.
Speaking about the intention behind her popular book, The Elf on the Shelf author Bell previously said she envisioned it as “a simple game of hide-and-seek.”
“The elf will watch us during the day, report to Santa at night, and in the morning, before the kids wake up, the elf flies back from the North Pole and lands somewhere else in the house,” Bell said. “They move around the house, engage with families, hopefully bring a lot of joy and a lot of fun.”
So, mums and dads around the world would help get kids excited for Christmas by moving them around the house, keeping the magic of the festive season alive.
So helpful so far, but Bell also made it clear back then that the elves weren’t meant to be mischievous at all – and the idea of elves teasing children didn’t come from the book.
It all seems to be an invention of the viral age. Dr Alice Vernon, from Aberystwyth University’s Department of English and Creative Writing, recently spoke about the pressure some parents feel to raise the stakes for social media content – even comparing the obsession to the behavior of poltergeist ‘victims’.
Vernon said: “I don’t think Elf on the Shelf is drastically harmful in itself, and in most cases it’s really just a bit of fun, but when it’s only done for social media influence (for the praise of other adults, not for the enjoyment of children ), as it now seems to be a significant part of the trend, I think there is a risk that this will cause anxiety and attention-seeking behavior in much the same way that poltergeist “victims” have always tried to perform phenomena that were more impressive from the previous ones.
“Increasingly, the elf finds himself doing things that a child would have trouble doing, which seems to defy the point of it all. It stops being about the kids and becomes about the parents who are always chasing greater levels of attention on social media. On a personal level, I just think they’re horrible little things.
At least for me, I can’t agree.
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