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The Peppa Effect: Why US children are speaking with British accents

Ryan Denison is the Senior Fellow for Theology at Denison Forum, where he contributes writing and research to many of the ministry’s productions.

He is in the final stages of earning his PhD in church history at BH Carroll Theological Institute after having earned his MDiv at Truett Seminary. Ryan has also taught at BH Carroll and Dallas Baptist University.

He and his wife, Candice, live in East Texas and have two children.

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A Peppa Pig model stands between models of Ricky Zoom and PJ Masks.
IMAGE DISTRIBUTED FOR HASBRO - Ricky Zoom, Peppa Pig, and PJ Masks are featured in the Hasbro, Inc. Showroom at 2020 New York Toy Fair on Friday, Feb.21 in New York. (Charles Sykes/AP Images for Hasbro)

It will be years, maybe decades, before we can fully evaluate the impact of the Covid pandemic on the development of children. For some families, however, the consequences are already being felt. They call it the Peppa Effect and, as Preetika Rana and Meghan Bobrowsky chronicle for the Wall Street Journal, it has left many unsuspecting parents to grapple with the reality that their kids are now—at least linguistically—British.

But how did so many well-intentioned, solidly American families end up in this frightening new world where the bathroom is the “water closet” and cookies have come to be called “biscuits?” And what are they to do now with kids who are more inclined to say disturbing things like “lovely,” “please,” and “thank you”? 

Sadly, there are no easy answers to those life-altering questions, but there is perhaps an important piece of wisdom we can glean from the wreckage. 

How did the Peppa Effect start?

In all seriousness, it is remarkable that a children’s show as innocent and entertaining as Peppa Pig could have this kind of impact on the kids who watch it, and there is an important lesson we should take from how the Peppa Effect came to have such a formative impact on so many. 

As Rana and Bobrowsky note, one of the main reasons that more and more kids have adopted the speech patterns of the cartoon animals from the show is that “lockdowns sent screen-time limits out the door, and children gorged on the cartoon in a silo away from their usual social interactions.” 

When the cartoon was just one small part of their day, the British accents and different words were fun but not formative. It was only when the show took on an outsized portion of their attention spans that it began to really alter the way kids spoke. 

That basic principle applies to more than kids and more than cartoons. 

What’s influencing you?

It can be easy to underestimate the impact that any single influence can have on the way we think and interact with the world around us, but all of us are sponges to at least some extent, and what comes out when pressed is largely determined by what we choose to absorb throughout the course of a given day.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. God made us that way because it’s the easiest path for us to become more like him. If we fill our minds and our days with things that point us back to the Lord and allow the Holy Spirit to saturate every facet of our lives, then we can’t help but exude Christ throughout our daily interactions. 

Unfortunately, the opposite is also true: if we choose to fill our minds and hearts with things that don’t glorify God, then it gets increasingly difficult for our thoughts, words, and actions to glorify him either. 

So as we reflect and smile on the silliness that is wide swaths of American children talking like they’re from England, don’t let the opportunity pass to also reflect on what you are allowing to affect you as well. 

Does your life indicate that God is the primary influence on your heart and mind or does something or someone else hold that status? 

How you answer that question will go a long way toward determining if people will meet Jesus when they meet you.