LONDON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--It used to be the case that as children got older they would eventually wise up to the truth about Santa. Perhaps they found unwrapped presents stashed away in the attic by their parents, heard about “the great lie” being whispered on the school playground or simply put two and two together.
However, that was in the days before families lived much of their lives online. According to new research* by virtual private network provider Hide My Ass! (HMA!), 1 in 8 (13 percent) American parents said that the internet was responsible for their child (or children) finding out that Santa Claus is not real.
As a result of social media, targeted advertising and the “truth” of Santa being just a quick Google search away, the opportunities for youngsters to stumble across the reality of Santa Claus online, whether by accident or design, are more abundant now than ever before.
The age belief ends
The internet seems to be playing such a major role in altering children’s Christmas beliefs that it may be contributing to driving down the average age youngsters stop believing in Santa.
Indeed, for children born between 1997 (the year Google search launched) and 2005 (just before Facebook opened to the public), who were between 3 and 10 years old when they stopped believing in Santa, the average age reduced by 4 percent: from 8.05 years to 7.71 years.
This apparent downward trend is even more evident when comparing the current age of non-believing children to the age their parents stopped believing in Santa. Based on the results of those polled, the average age current parents stopped believing in Santa was 8.7 years old, while the average age children now stop believing in Santa is 7.25 years old – a 16.6 percent reduction between the generations.
The main online culprits
Of the 13 percent of parents that pointed the finger of blame at the internet, the most common online offender (44 percent) was performing a Google search for Santa and clicking on a page explaining he was no more than a merry myth. Close behind was online advertising: 34 percent of children had their Santa suspicions raised after seeing ads online for the very gifts they’d wished for in their letters to the North Pole.
Additionally, for about one in three (29 percent), their holiday happiness came crashing down after reading an unfortunate tweet or Facebook post saying that Santa is make believe. Twenty six percent simply watched on in the background as their parents shopped online for Christmas presents.
Reflecting the fact that this generation’s youngsters are effectively born internet literate (and spend an average of 11.5 hours on the internet each week) the research also shows that almost one in 10 (8 percent) children have turned cyber sleuth and looked through their parents’ internet search history or online shopping accounts to find evidence that mom and/or dad had procured the Christmas presents, not Mr. Claus and his elves. Such junior detective work is obviously made all the easier with almost two thirds (61 percent) of parents never deleting their search history or logging out of online shopping accounts during Christmas.
For all of these reasons it is perhaps no surprise that the overwhelming majority of parents (91 percent) strongly believe that the internet has made it far easier for children today to find out the truth about Santa – and to find out earlier than they had when they were children.
Keep believing in Santa
In response to the findings, Hide My Ass! has today launched a campaign called “Keep Believing In Santa,” which aims to help parents navigate the online festive pitfalls threatening to prematurely put an end to their kids’ belief in the benevolent, bearded gift giver.
At the heart of the Hide My Ass! campaign is a free piece of software for parents that will help to protect children over the Christmas period from the Santa-sapping potential of the internet.
Once installed on a web browser and activated, the software monitors all online search results, web pages or social media communications that could threaten to bring a child’s belief in Santa crashing down. The software automatically conceals any such content with images of a jolly Santa Claus in his grotto. It can be downloaded for free from www.hidemyass.com/keep-believing-in-santa.
In the U.S., 73 percent of parents polled noted that they’d like to see an online feature, like this software, developed that could help preserve the mystery of Santa Claus for their children a little bit longer.
Cian Mckenna-Charley, marketing director at Hide My Ass!, commented: “We all spend so much of our time on the internet nowadays that the lines between ‘online’ and ‘offline’ aren’t just blurred, they’ve been erased completely. Consequently, as our research shows, this constant connectivity makes it far easier for children to discover online content bringing Santa’s existence into question.
Not only is there a higher likelihood of the internet now being the main source of a child’s belief in Santa ending, it can also result in youngsters finding out sooner than for those born before the digital era. With this campaign, we wanted to give parents an optional tool that would allow them to maintain the magic of Christmas and the mystery of Santa for that little bit longer.”
Santa Claus himself has issued a video appeal today urging parents to install the software and help protect the Christmas spirit for their little ones. This can be viewed here: www.hidemyass.com/keep-believing-in-santa.
* Consumer research conducted by Censuswide on behalf of Hide My Ass! in November 2015. 2,036 U.S. parents of children born 1983 – 2013 were polled (a total of 4,800 children). A child is being defined as aged 0 – 15 years.
About Hide My Ass!
Hide My Ass! is a leading VPN (virtual private network) provider founded in 2005. It is now a global company based in London with offices in the UK, Serbia and Ukraine. HideMyAss.com provides a free web proxy service and VPN Pro, a paid-for virtual private network.