Move over elf on the shelf, a new festive craze has come to town in the form of the Santa Cam…

Santa’s new little helper’s purpose is to provide a window into our homes from the North Pole so the big man in red and his elves can keep an eye on the kids and decide whether they’ve been good enough to make it onto the longed-for ‘Nice’ list, or if they don’t behave themselves, they risk ending up on the dreaded ‘Naughty’ list instead.

Widely available to buy from retailers and sites such as Amazon and eBay, the ‘camera’ flashes a LED light to remind kids that Santa is always watching and knows exactly what they’ve been up to. There are mobile versions too with some teachers keeping students on their best behaviour by wearing one around their neck! The price point is another plus. An original Elf on the Shelf costs around £29.99 (with the book) whereas Santa Cams can be found for as little as £1.99 and the majority have a £5 price tag. We parents employ many techniques throughout the year to encourage good and kind behaviour in our children, pocket money, reward charts etc. and, let’s face it, the run-up to Christmas with such a huge present bonanza at stake presents a ‘carrot’ opportunity like no other to keep our little angels in line. However, many parents have spoken out, in news articles and social media, against the new Christmas trend and believe that ‘Big Brother’ style Santa surveillance is a step too far. We were keen to find out what NI parents thought about the idea and if any of you would be installing a Santa cam this December?

Many parents, like Sandra McKeen thought it was “Not expensive” and a “Great idea!” Ann Sloan agrees saying, “I think I need this!” and Eadaoin Nuinseann says she has just heard that her family are having an elf to stay on their mantelpiece for a few weeks before Christmas day, however she too is a fan of the Santa Cam idea. Parent Kev Banham could also see the attraction commenting, “Yes I’d use one. There’s nothing like the carrot and stick method with some kids if it’s healthy and used correctly.”

Surprisingly, it’s not just parents who are welcoming the idea, kids love it too. Mum Lesley Connolly got in touch to say, “I had one of these last year. My daughter (5) was super excited to know that Santa was watching. She used to dance around and sing in front of it so Santa could see how good she was. We’ve also had an elf and it was fun too, doing different cheeky things. My daughter is well behaved most of the time so it’s not a great threat to her and she takes it as a fun way to show off to Santa.” Mum Gemma Finlay admitted, “I didn’t want one but my six-year- old heard about them from his friend and now he wants us to get one.” And it’s thumbs up from Sarah Duff who revealed, “We have one. My daughter loves it.”

However not all parents who responded agree. Derick Doughty believes, “There’s nothing wrong with the odd, ‘Don’t forget Santa Claus could be watching!’ in the couple of weeks before Christmas”, but feels that Santa Cam is just too much. He adds, “What makes me sad is that I feel things like this are taking the joy out of Christmas for kids. It is supposed to be a magical time, not a time for kids not to dare breathe because Santa Claus is watching them on a camera, or a silly elf is telling on them for everything they do.”

“Another gimmick to make money!” Is the opinion of Nicola Beggs who adds, “I don’t like Elf on the Shelf either! I prefer the North Pole Behavioural Department which is NI based and works on the traffic light system of red, amber and green behaviour.” Kirstie McClelland asked, “We have the elves and they are a little bit of fun but we don’t use them for behaviour management or otherwise what do you do for the other eleven months of the year?” Dad Gary Toner also thinks it’s a ‘terrible idea’ and ‘too extreme’ commenting, “At least the elf feels like a fun idea, looks friendly and is merely just reporting back to Santa! The camera just feels cold and harsh!”

Claire Wright just doesn’t think it would work for her three-year-old (who doesn’t like Santa anyway because he’s too fussy) and would welcome any other suggestions and Joanne Parker also considers Santa Cam ‘a little extreme’. She reflects, “As a child we thought a robin was a lookout for Santa and I tell my kids the same. At least with the robin, or even the elf, they move around aren’t always watching so kids can have a little fun and mischief. It is Christmas after all!”

Some parents, such as Cath Cardwell, said, “I wouldn’t go out and buy a Santa cam but I have motion sensors in the house so I tell the kids that Santa can watch through them.” And indeed it seems that Santa Cam isn’t perhaps such a new trend after all as many NI mums and dads have been using this technique for years. Like Helen McKnight Dunleavy who revealed, “I was obviously way ahead of my time. I’ve been telling my kids (two of whom are now adults) for over twenty years that the light in the smoke alarm is Santa’s elves watching.” Clare Bo told Ni4kids, “This is the same as my mum telling us that the red lights on TV masts on the Black Mountain were Santa’s cameras. The woman was clearly ahead of her time but I’m not sure it worked.” Helen Skellyreminisced, “When I was a child you could see the Harland and Wolff cranes from our bedroom window. We were told the red lights on top was Rudolph doing his nightly patrols… we didn’t even notice that they were there all year round.” And Susan McKay remembers, “We had a mast at the top of Tully Hill behind our house. Obviously, the red light on the top was Rudolf’s nose and he was reporting back to Santa.”

If you like the idea of having some way for Santa to check up once in a while, but not unlimited viewing time, there were some other great suggestions sent in by parents to consider. Susan Brennan tells her kids Santa can tune into the alarm sensors in her home, Anna Barron has an app on her phone which she can use to call and talk to Santa if the kids are playing up and Fiona Hegarty has purchased an ‘elf door’ for the wall in her home and has warned her kids that they could come and visit at any time. She says, “It’s all just a bit of fun with the added bonus that your son or daughter is going to ‘try’ and be extra good on the run up to Christmas.”

Ni4kids’ View

Parents have been telling their children that Santa knows exactly what they’ve been up to for generations. The way he does that may change over the years, and with advances in technology it’s not really surprising that even Santa’s gone a bit more high-tech. By magic, his elf friends, or a camera, one way or another Santa has always had his ways of finding out who deserves to be on the ‘Nice’ list for Christmas – all children of course. Parents know their kids best and what will work to encourage some extra kind behaviour during the season of goodwill.

Wendy McCague


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