A research has just come out about how the internet, namely “online ads, search engines and social media are spoiling children's belief in Santa. Since 1997, the year Google search launched, 26% of children have had their belief in Santa ended by the internet.”
We discussed this on the BBC Radio with Paul Stainton.
So what does it mean? For children born between 1997 and 2005, the average age reduced by 14.4%: from 7 years and 10 months to 6 and 11 months when they stopped believing in Santa.
In response to the findings, www.hidemyass.com has today launched a campaign called ‘Keep Believing In Santa’, which aims to help parents navigate the online festive pitfalls, like never deleting their online shopping search history, threatening to prematurely put an end to their kids’ belief in the bearded gift giver. 79% of parents see it important to keep the mystery of Santa Claus for their children just a little bit longer.
Everyone comes across Santa, no matter where they are from. We cannot avoid it, it is in the media, shops and he predictably appears every year.
Santa’s myth is based on St Nicholas’s story, and it may reinforce good values based on the spirit of giving and bringing the family together. For many families, Santa is part of a long standing family tradition, and there is a great emotional connection with this myth, though the meaning they attach to it. Many people have wonderful memories relating to Santa. We need to be sensitive to children’s feelings and let them ask questions when they are ready.
For children, imagination is a normal part of development. Children come across the Tooth Fairy, dragons, monsters and various other fictional characters.
Questioning what is real and what is not is also a normal part of development. They beliefs change as their cognitive skills develop. Around the age of 5, they have the cognitive skills to look at the evidence or lack of it relating to these characters and start questioning things. Some of them try to catch Santa out, they even stay up late. We have heard of some children, who wanted to look at CCTV images to see if Santa could be seen dropping off presents.
Santa’s story eventually comes to an end. Children stop believing at different ages and it is often someone at school who breaks the news to them. If they ask, we need to gauge their level of doubt, and find out whether they are ready to hear St Nicholas’ s story.
A study conducted in 2002 said that when children found out about Santa not being real, parents reported feeling sad, not the children.
Many children grow up not believing in Santa and don't celebrate Christmas, so we should raise emotionally aware children, who respect that others can have different beliefs.
What are your thoughts?