Brigham Young University grad and former Utahn Mindy McKnight is YouTube famous. Her Cute Girl Hairstyles channel, where she offers hairstyling advice for women and girls, has over 5.5 million subscribers, and the Millennial Moms channel, where she and other moms dish on family-related topics, has over 300,000 subscribers. Unfortunately, a BYU Bachelor of Arts, hairstyling expertise and legion of moms watching you on YouTube won’t prep you for raising kids in the digital age — that comes with experience. As her daughters Brooklyn and Bailey and Kamri create their digital brands, and her three other kids enter the online world, McKnight shares the knowledge she’s picked up in her book Viral Parenting, a guide to teaching your kids to use the internet safely and responsibly.
McKnight wrote Viral Parenting to answer the many questions she and her husband, Shaun, receive from parents looking to keep kids safe and grounded online. In her book, she recommends staying involved in what kids do online — Fortnite, too — and being a resource if they have questions.
“If you have a child online, you need to be a parent online,” McKnight says. “It doesn’t always come easy to parents in our generation, because we weren’t taught those skills by our own parents.”
When your kids inevitably push back, telling you what they do online is none of your business (teenagers, amirite?), McKnight says it’s time to remind them that there is no such thing as digital privacy. “Anything online or on social media is open for people to potentially screenshot or share, or even for the platforms themselves to sell to advertisers,” she says.
To help you protect your kids online, despite the backtalk, McKnight recommends forming a “truth squad,” a small group of adults — likely you and parents of your kids’ friends — to let you know if they hear about your kids getting into things they shouldn’t online, and vice versa. “Kids are teaching each other how to use apps, how to work with their phones, and, as parents, we also need to be networking in a similar fashion,” she says. Truth squads also share info on books, smartphone filters and other resources with each other that are effective in keeping kids safe online.
How to best regulate internet use often depends on age. If little Jimmy asks for that iPhone 11, McKnight suggests paying attention to platform-recommended ages. For example, many social media sites recommend children be at least 13 to use their services. “I know parents who do it younger, and it’s certainly something they can do,” she says. “They just need to be very involved in their kids’ cell phone use.” McKnight also suggests checking out the Wait Until 8th movement, which encourages parents to delay giving children smartphones until they are in eighth grade.
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