TORONTO - Parents beware: with just a few days left till Christmas, it might be wise to keep the little ones away from the Internet.
If past trends are any indication, Google is likely now seeing spikes of searches like "Is Santa real?"
While Google declined an interview request, the search giant did confirm that queries such as "is Santa Claus real" and "Santa real" — which is the most common — have become more popular with each passing year and typically spike in the days before Christmas.
Ross Mayfield found out about the trend the hard way while watching TV recently with his nine-year-old son.
"We saw some car commercial where Santa was delivering cars as presents and he just couldn't believe that would be possible for Santa to be able to fit these cars in a bag," Mayfield said.
"He grabbed the iPad, Googled the phrase 'is santa real,' and after looking at one or two pages said to his mom, 'There, I'm convinced! Santa's definitely not real, I Googled it!'"
Mayfield never considered that his kids might have the big Santa question spoiled by the Internet and now hopes he can convince his son that Santa is real.
"Every Christmas Eve we have a really big dinner and I'll dress up as Santa, come to the door, say 'Ho ho ho,' give the kids a hug and deliver a bagful of presents. Somehow I've managed up till this point for him to not recognize me," Mayfield said.
"We decided to not change the tradition and if he ends up going, 'Oh it's daddy!' then I might see if I can explain it as, 'Well, Santa's really busy, he's got a lot of helpers and I'm one of them.'"
According to Google, the most searches asking if Santa is real come from users in Ireland. For the search "is santa claus real," Canadians were the fourth most likely to ask the question. Toronto ranked fourth on the global list of cities that asked the question most, behind Dallas, Atlanta and Chicago.
When looking just at the Canadian search results for "santa real" going back to 2008, most searches were in British Columbia followed by Nova Scotia, Alberta, Ontario, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan and Quebec. Calgary ranks highest among cities, followed by Vancouver, Halifax, Toronto, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Waterloo, Ont., and Montreal.
Parents with the new iPhone 4S can relax. The popular voice-activated function Siri appears to feign ignorance and doesn't answer questions about Santa's existence.