Psychologists from the University of Exeter have suggested the lie could undermine a child’s children trust in their parents.
In an article published in the journal Lancet Psychiatry, Christopher Boyle and Kathy McKay wrote: “If [parents] are capable of lying about something so special and magical, can they be relied upon to continue as the guardians of wisdom and truth?”
The psychologists said the idea of an all-seeing North Pole resident who judges kids as naughty or nice is – when considered as an adult – terrifying.
“The morality of making children believe in such myths has to be questioned,” said Professor Boyle, of the University of Exeter.
Professor Boyle continued: “All children will eventually find out they’ve been consistently lied to for years, and this might make them wonder what other lies they’ve been told.
“Whether it’s right to make children believe in Father Christmas is an interesting question, and it’s also interesting to ask whether lying in this way will affect children in ways that have not been considered.”
The authors did concede that some lies - white lies - aren’t always bad for kids.
“An adult comforting a child and telling them that their recently deceased pet will go to a special place (animal heaven) is arguably nicer than telling graphic truths about its imminent re-entry into the carbon cycle,” they wrote in the journal.
Not all psychologists agree that the’Father Christmas lie’ can be damage children’s relationship with parents.
Commenting on the report, Dr Danielle Jackson, chartered clinical psychologist, at Jackson Psychology Services disagreed with the claims made.
“There are a great many threats to the moral compasses of our youth, Santa is unlikely to be one of them,” she told The Huffington Post UK.
“In fact, the presence of Santa may make children think more about their behaviour, rather than less.”
Jackson said the benefits of believing in Santa include the sense of “ritual and shared magic” at Christmas that can bring a family together.
She added: “A family will have a shared narrative based around (partly) a story of a magical being – not dissimilar in fact to how some might interpret the more religious story of Christmas.
“Having, or conveying, a sense of magic or magical beings, far from being harmful, is likely to give children a broader imagination, creativity and richer play, benefits which will last long beyond the belief in magic.
“Also, how important is it that magic is real? Many of us hold beliefs about things that could be perceived by others as ‘not real’ or magic.
“Certainly holding the possibility in one’s mind that these things could be real, helps us to be more open-minded and experience the world in a different way than if we had never believed in magic.”
Jeni Hooper, a child psychologist specialising in wellbeing, agreed with Jackson that fictional stories and make believe are not damaging for children.
“Magical stories boost our wellbeing,” explained Hooper. “Children’s emotions are powerful and not yet moderated by the rational, thinking brain, which helps us to find solutions in adult life.
“Stories talk to the emotional brain and help children to learn important skills and deal with disappointment and difficult emotions.”
And they aren’t the only ones. In 2013, an American child psychiatrist said that belief in Santa is a “good thing” for kids.
“I don’t think it’s a bad thing for kids to believe in the myth of someone trying to make people happy if they’re behaving,” Dr. Matthew Lorber, a child psychiatrist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City told The Huffington Post.
“Imagination is a normal part of development, and helps develop creative minds.”