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Who you gonna call in a parenting jam? ELMO!

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If your kid won’t take orders from you, maybe they’ll listen to Elmo.

That’s the rationale behind Sesame Street’s new app, which is racking up parents’ seals of approval. Since it launched this winter, the endearing monster has made over 30 million simulated phone calls to parents in need.

Here’s how Elmo Calls works: you “call” Elmo and arrange for him to video or audio call your kid. From there, he’ll enforce bedtime, teeth brushing, bath time and a slew of other daily tasks in his own high pitched, fun-loving way. When business is over, kids can schedule a play date with the furry monster to watch him sing the ABCs.

Your kid getting a personal call—from a Sesame Street star no less—can cajole them into getting those pesky quotidien tasks done without a fight. Especially when he cheers them on the whole time. Um, where’s ours?

We can all agree that Elmo’s influence is pretty stellar, but his influence via the app strikes some as a double-edged sword. “Children who are young enough to be influenced by Elmo shouldn’t have a phone,” says Melissa St. James, associate professor of marketing at California State University. “That’s my first concern.” Well, yes. But we would happily hand over our own hand-held for the purposes of getting our kid to bed in a timely fashion.

St. James says the underlying issue here is whether the screens are being used passively or as interactive outlets for healthy development. Considering how addicted kids are to tablets and phones these days, the Elmo app just adds fuel to the fire of a bigger debate.

While it’s true that the app may assert a strange influence over your kid, when your other options are negotiating, bribing and/or threatening a time out, having Elmo on speed dial seems like it would be the lesser evil.

Carrot, stick or the red furry muppet with the heart of gold—which would you choose?

 

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