According to a new survey by Scripps Howard News Service and Ohio University, kids today learn at an earlier age that Santa Claus is just a figment of their parents’ imagination.

“Blame the Internet, our cynical times or perhaps the increasing sophistication of youth,” write Thomas Hargrove and Guido H. Stempel III on the Scripps Howard News Service wire. “Whatever the reason, a survey of 1,022 people found that young adults typically came to a more complete understanding of Saint Nicholas at least a year earlier than did members of the baby-boom generation.”

Kids today learn the awful truth about Santa at age 7.7, the earliest in surveyed history.

“Our studies indicated that children go through a gradual series of changes in their beliefs over a period of two or three Christmases,” said Carl Anderson of Austin, Texas, a licensed psychologist and professional storyteller who portrays Santa Claus. “Kids don’t get as concerned about illogic or irrationalities as adults. But as they get older, they start letting go of that magical thinking and start having doubt.”

I was five when my mother told me the truth about Santa Claus. I took that truth the next year to the first grade and caused my classmates to break into the tears when I revealed, with great glee, that the Santa they believed in so much did not exist.

That devotion to truth earned a trip to the principal’s office and my teacher tried to placate the emotionally-distraught first graders I left behind by telling them I was lying and that Santa did, in fact, exist.

Which meant when the kids later learned the truth they also learned they could not trust their teachers.

So much for role models.