Mall Santas an ‘endangered species’ as cyber Santas rise

Mall Santas an ‘endangered species’ as cyber Santas rise
Forget transporting loud, noisy kids through harsh winter weather and standing in lines for hours in order to see Santa Claus – nowadays, more and more parents are using sleek new electronics to communicate with the jolly old St. Nick.

As smartphones and tablets become more widespread in the United States, the devices are giving parents a whole host of options when it comes to speaking with Santa, the Wall Street Journal reported. Texting services allow kids and parents to correspond simply with Mr. Kringle, while multiple Twitter accounts allow for interaction on social media.

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Even more ambitious are video apps that allow children to hold live sessions with Santa Claus himself. On Apple’s App Store, one FaceTime app offers kids to chance to do so in English, Spanish and French. Meanwhile, JibJab Media’s “Hello Santa” video service lets children talk to Santa indefinitely for $30 – with no pressure to quickly end the session so the next kid in line can hop on Santa’s lap.

In fact, these options have become so popular that they are giving mall Santas across the country some unexpected competition.

“Mall Santas are an endangered species,” said JibJab CEO Gregg Spiridellis to the Journal, adding that mall Santas are “catatonic—ignorant about what kids’ names are."

Speaking with the newspaper, several parents said interacting with Santa in this way was beneficial to their children. They could not only speak at length with him, but Santa actually knew their names and joked around with them, too, parents said.

“I’d be very much OK with doing only FaceTime,” said Angie Bryson, a South Carolina mother of two. “They actually get more time this way, and they’re actually having a conversation with Santa, rather than being moved along by the elves at the mall.”

Not everyone is happy with the development, however. Sociology professor Markella Rutherford of Wellesley College in Massachusetts believes giving kids more access to Santa via text and phone chats – methods they’d use to interact with any normal person – could diminish St. Nick’s status.

“It normalizes Santa,” Rutherford told the Journal. “The magic of writing a letter to Santa is that he lives in this faraway place, and that you can still get the Christmas letter to him. If you’re always communicating through your iPad, then talking to Santa [on your iPad] is not so magical.”

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Despite the increased interest in cyber Santas, traditional outlets for the Christmas figure aren’t sweating the competition. The US Postal Service still receives millions of old-fashioned letters to Santa, while companies that hire out in-person Santas for malls and other events said demand is “as high as ever.”