Over 3.3 million children have stopped believing in Santa Claus because of information they have seen about him on the Internet.
Since 1997, the year Google search launched, 26 per cent of youngsters have been deprived of the magic of Christmas.
New figures have found the Internet contributes to children discovering Santa isn’t real at a younger age, driving down the average age they stop believing from almost nine years old in their parent’s childhood to six years 11 months old today.
Targeted ads, search engines and seeing the results of a parents’ shop for gifts online are the top reasons for children finding out early about Santa.
In response to the findings and to protect children’s beliefs for longer, a website www.hidemyass.com, has released a free browser plug-in for parents that cleverly conceals any online content that could lead to a child prematurely discovering the truth about Santa - such content is covered with a picture of Santa in his workshop.
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 squirreled away in the attic by mum and dad, 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 www.hidemyass.com, in the 18 years since Google search was launched in 1997 an estimated 3.37 million children in Britain (26 per cent) have actually seen their belief in Santa Claus ended by none other than the Internet.
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.
Of the 21 per cent of parents that pointed the finger of blame at the Internet, the most common online offender was advertising.
Indeed, 47 per cent 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, over a third (35 per cent) performed a Google search for Santa and clicked onto a web page explaining that he was no more than a merry myth. The same number of children (35 per cent) simply watched on in the background as their parents shopped online for Christmas presents.
Meanwhile, for one in 10 (10 per cent) children, their holiday happiness came crashing down down after reading an unfortunate Tweet or Facebook post saying that Santa is make believe.
Cian Mckenna-Charley, of www.hidemyass.com, said: “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.”
The software can be downloaded at www.hidemyass.com/keep-believing-in-santa