Viral Parenting

A Guide to Setting Boundaries, Building Trust, and Raising Responsible Kids in an Online World


By Mindy McKnight

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$35.50 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around April 2, 2019. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

Mindy McKnight, YouTube’s favorite mom, shares the tools parents need to keep kids safe in their online lives–and shows how to create stronger family relationships as they do.

A cross between Jen Hatmaker and Rosalind Wiseman, VIRAL PARENTING is a guide to raising responsible, safe, and communicative kids in the digital world. Mindy shares practical tools for having honest conversations with kids of all ages about privacy, bullying, respectfulness, and family time, while emphasizing the importance of trust and open communication. These strategies are timeless–whether applied to texting, snapping, Facebooking, kiking, or whatever social media platforms await us in the future, this book is ultimately about teaching children about personal responsibility and safety.

Mindy shares practical tools for creating family rules for kids of all ages about privacy, bullying, respectfulness, and family time, while emphasizing the importance of trust and open communication. Using family contracts, guided conversations, device checks, and respectful but firm oversight, the McKnights have raised a close knit family and navigated the complexity of being world-wide internet celebrities with grace. McKnight will show any parent of any child or teen how that’s done–setting non-negotiable guidelines and offering a savvy perspective toward privacy that audience have been begging for.



Parenting in the digital twenty-first century needs a new rulebook.

Remember when you could shut your doors and what happened in your house stayed within its walls? Or when the worst post-bedtime transgression was reading a book by flashlight under the covers? Nowadays, your little one doesn’t have to leave the house in order to be sneaking out after curfew, with fingers flying over that tiny keyboard to keep Snapchat streaks going or texting their friends into the wee hours of the night. Or posting a picture of their new Stan Smiths on Instagram.

Your kids are the Digital Native Generation.

It used to be that we’d learn parenting skills from our parents, but now our kids are teaching us how to deal with technology, the Internet, and social media, not one of which existed in such complicated digital form when we were growing up. Say good-bye to the era of analog parenting relics, and hello to the digitally wired-from-birth kids who are instantly savvier about features on their smartphones than we’ll ever be.

So, yes, the rules have changed, but to adapt, first you have to know what the rules are. How can you keep up with what your kids are doing when they download apps and get bored with them before you’ve even looked at them once?

It is time to be an online digital parent. Yes, it’s different, but it doesn’t have to be scary. In this book I want to teach you how to set basic ground rules that will work no matter what is happening in the digital world, because the only thing I know for sure is that technology will always be a step ahead of us. So, for a parent, what’s more important than understanding which apps are most popular at the moment is knowing how to set ground rules with your kids for how they interact and present themselves online.

As one of YouTube’s top moms, who also has children who are digital influencers, I know social media, and so do my kids. Thanks to our work experience, using the very same tools our kids use to connect with others; the age range of our six children (from seven to eighteen); and our own age as young parents, my husband and I are uniquely positioned to share what structure works best for children in that range. Born in 1974 and 1978, respectively, we’re both essentially what you would call “Xennials”—the micro-generation born in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Because we work in a digital space, we age down with our technologies but age up in our parenting.

We’re the last generation, in fact, that grew up with an analog childhood, but now have a completely digital adulthood. When the digital era took over, we were young enough to be able to adapt quickly and use the technology readily and efficiently. But our parents have little-to-zero reference today to help teach us how to parent and raise our children, the first fully Digital Native Generation. (Our nickname for our parents’ generation is the “Barely There” Digital Generation!) We’re all learning as we go, but we hope that by sharing the rules we’ve established for our six different, hilarious, wonderful, exasperating, determined, tech-savvy, and opinionated kids—rules that we’ve tested and know truly work—you’ll be able to create your own digital rules for the unique needs of your family.

Xennials have become a bridge of sorts between the analog and the digital worlds. Because our parents couldn’t teach us how to parent in a digital world, we are by default the new-rule creators and influencers. Our children will take how we’ve raised and parented them and continue that as the standard for their future families. It’s really kind of thrilling to be living through this enormous shift in cultural norms, and to be able to create a whole new paradigm for our children.

Our aim is to cover all bases as we teach you how to master these new technologies and platforms and apply the new rules to your own family structure. By involving ourselves in our children’s ever-evolving technological world, we can effectively help them avoid fallout not only in their own lives but also the lives of others.

Much of the time, keeping up with what the kids do online is fun, but the downside to this always-connected world is that it can also be draining and even destructive. You must acknowledge the cons (naïve sharing of personal information, pornography, cyberbullying, and lack of interpersonal communication skills at a glance) while encouraging the pros (educational resources, digital community building, and quickly being able to contribute donations, for example, to victims of natural disasters).

How can a parent navigate these waters and mitigate potential pitfalls while providing their children the best opportunities to succeed? You can try to control what your kids do and have access to in your home, but you can’t control what they do and what they’re exposed to when they’re outside of it. It used to be easier to keep them in a bubble of protection from the wildness of the world. Now, with Twitter and Instagram, they can find out if there’s been a terrorist attack in Paris, France, or Paris, Ohio, within just a few minutes after it happens. Sometimes they know before the mainstream media reports on it. Our children are instantly wired on a global scale, and we don’t always have a buffer to discuss and control how we frame the global world for them.

Social media never turns off. It’s a 24/7 time snatcher. You can’t escape it. You have to know how to control it before it controls you—and your children.


Not only is this book full of our tried-and-true rules, best tips, and time-saving hacks (especially for parents balancing full-time work with the demands of family life), but you’ll learn how to connect with your kids using the coded language of technology—and it is actually another language. In addition, our incredibly tech-savvy children, some of whom have achieved worldwide fame with their own social media channels, are sharing the best of what they know, making this book amazingly helpful not just for you but for your tweens and teens who want to learn from their peers.

In Part I, “Life Through a Selfie Stick: How Technology Has Transformed Parenting,” we’ll take you from the analog century and land you safely in the digital century. You’ll learn how to use all the most popular social media platforms, what you don’t need, and how important etiquette is. You can see the family contracts we’ve created that all our children must sign and abide by. Most important, we’ll discuss in depth the pros and cons of social media as it relates to family and discuss appropriate digital citizenship.

In Part II, “Family and Home Life,” we’ll show you how to apply the new rules for technology to all aspects of family life. Setting up specific structures will help you define your approach to parenthood and allow your children to thrive. Our rules and philosophy will guide you through all the common parenting issues, from picking your battles to homework to chores to friendships and downtime. I’ll give you strategies for instilling respect, parenting on the same page, and managing rivalries.

Part III, “Friendship and Community,” deals with the issues our children face as friends, and with the unfortunate reality of bullying, both online and off. It also deals with you as a parent, as a friend, as a member of your extended family, and as part of your community. Without loving and supportive shoulders to cry on, it would be infinitely harder to parent our children—in good times and in bad. I’ve made many online friends that I likely will never meet, but they have given me as much advice as they’ve asked for, and these positive relationships have changed my life. In addition, we are a faith-driven family, and contributing to our community is important to us. Giving back to those in need is one of the best ways to take children offline and help them become citizens of the world.

We hope this book will become an indispensable guide for all your parenting questions, no matter where you live, how digitally savvy you are, and even if you still think you’re an analog relic!

*McKnight Relic Moment*: Shaun walks in one day after school and begins to talk to Brooklyn and Bailey about them posting about their baes online. He pronounced it “bye,” as in good-bye, rather than “bay.”

Mindy: “Girls, how do you use this new app called Keek?”

BB: “Mom, it’s KIK. Like kick!”

See what I mean?


It all started with a basic ponytail.

As I stood in our small bathroom, doing my daughters’ hair before they went off to school each day, I never dreamed that my talent for braiding would make me a top mom on YouTube.

I could never have predicted that my nine-year-old twins, Brooklyn and Bailey, or my six-year-old daughter, Kamri, would go on to create their own YouTube channels, that they would eventually have millions of subscribers of their own, or that my family would go on tours across America and other countries.

I couldn’t have imagined that those same hair tutorials would be viewed over 1 billion times in nearly every country in the world.

And I never, ever would have believed that the millions of moms, dads, and even children who follow us would start to send me hundreds of questions every day. Not just about hair—but about anything and everything family-and parenting-related.

I grew up in suburban Salt Lake City, Utah, the fourth of five children in a quintessential American family. My parents would be the first to say that I was supercompetitive and overachieving. I always wanted to be a mom, and wrote a story in second grade stating that I would have triplet girls when I got older (looks like I’m still shy of that goal by one, although people call Kamri the “Lagging Triplet!”—which makes her roll her eyes and laugh!).

Shaun grew up in Shelley, Idaho, a small potato-farming community. We met and fell in love as undergrads at Brigham Young University, got married a year before Shaun graduated (we decided that we wanted to be young parents so that we could be young grandparents!), and I graduated with eighteen-month-old twin girls on my hips. We were dirt-poor, but we made it work, in large part because of our upbringings and because our Mormon faith was very important to us. Most of the families we grew up with had lots of children, and many also had parents who overachieved both at work and in the home. These moms and dads were role models for us from the start. I have to admit that I’m one of those people who like to be busy and who work better under pressure.

As more children came along, we discovered two things: We were a girl-producing machine, and I was blessed with kids who had massive amounts of hair at a young age. I’d always loved doing hair, but it became more and more fun to work with as the girls got older. Every morning, we’d crowd into our little bathroom, me still with my jammies on (as you know!), and we’d run through spelling words or just talk about school, their friends, or whatever was planned for that day. They enjoyed Hair Time with Mom as much as I enjoyed creating different looks. In fact, if they were ever naughty, all I had to say was “No Hair Time for you tomorrow,” and they’d instantly start behaving! It was the perfect way to start the day.

As my girls grew, the styles became more elaborate, and as a time saver, I started making little photo flip-books so my girls could pick and choose which hairstyle they wanted that day. People would constantly compliment the girls on their hair and ask me how to replicate the styles. This was fun until people started asking me to undo their hair so that I could show them how to do it… right there in the grocery store or mall! A blog, I thought, would make it much easier to share my hobby and keep an online hair journal of sorts for the kids to reference when they were older. In 2008, I decided to start a blog to showcase the step-by-step photos I used to style my girls’ hair, purely as a hobby.

In one of my smarter moves, I talked to a friend who worked as a website engineer and SEO expert, a professional in building and ranking websites in major search engines like Google. He said that, if we were serious, we needed a name with the right highly searched keywords in it. Thanks to his research, was born.

At first, the blog was basic—just photos and captions. I soon realized that some mommy bloggers were actually making money from their blogs, and I asked Shaun if we should put some ads up. He was dumbfounded. “Why would we do that?” he asked. “The only people looking at this are our friends and family. It would be really lame for them to have to look at ads on your blog when all they wanted was a hairstyle.” I shrugged and tried to put some ads up anyway, but inadvertently implemented them wrong. This bugged my very computer-literate hubby so much that he went in and fixed it, and that was the beginning of Shaun’s involvement in my online work.

The first month of monetizing the blog brought in a whopping $7. We were thrilled that this was enough money for an essentially “free” date-night burrito! Slowly, though, spread by word-of-mouth recommendations, my blog became more and more popular, and it soon earned several hundred dollars every month. (There was no better billboard for my hairstyles than having a little girl wear them to school and at church!) I was proud of my contribution to our family finances and happy that I could now afford to buy myself or the kids a new pair of jeans once in a while without feeling so pressed by our budget.

About six months later, I created a hairstyle that just wouldn’t translate in photographs. Shaun had the brilliant idea of using his brand-new Flip Video camera (remember them?) to film me in the bathroom with the girls, and then uploading the video directly to YouTube so we could embed the video HTML code on our blog. I was shocked when YouTube got in touch with us a few months later and asked if we’d like to join the YouTube Partner Program. We were so clueless that Shaun had to do some research online to verify that it was a legitimate request and not a phishing scam. We signed on, quickly started earning, and realized that there was money to be made on YouTube, after all.

As the videos took off and our viewership rapidly increased, we soon realized that one of the reasons for our success was that styling hair is free, and it’s a universal form of communication that transcends all spoken or written language. Because our followers didn’t need to understand English to be able to follow what I was doing, our website quickly developed an international viewer base.

We had another surprise when, in May 2011, YouTube added us to its On the Rise competition where fans vote for one of four small up-and-coming channels. Whichever channel gets the most votes receives a channel feature on YouTube’s home page for a full day. We did so well that we won by a larger margin than any previous winner. Little girls talked about how they’d voted on every single computer in the Apple store or the school computer lab because they loved us so much! We were thrilled when we won, and we gained approximately fifteen thousand new subscribers in the twenty-four hours that we were on YouTube’s home page, an increase of 21 percent. That’s when we realized we could potentially turn my little hobby into a truly viable and long-lasting career.

I was equally astonished that so many people were fascinated by our family “behind the braids” videos. At first, they asked me about the kids: where they got their clothes, their hobbies, schoolwork, how I managed to get everything done, house rules, chores, how I coped with six young children, if I had paid help, and more. Very soon, those questions became more moving and complicated: How does a parent raise good kids? How do you keep them grounded? What are your secrets?

I soon realized that, as our popularity grew, our followers’ children were growing up with our children, which made moms feel comfortable with me. They saw me as someone also struggling to balance a life full of kids, my now full-time job, education, and after-school activities and to maintain a healthy relationship with my wonderful husband.

Me doing hair in my jammies in front of the bathroom mirror was a large part of our appeal—millions of other moms did the same thing, too. It was relatable. We used a battered old camping light with tin foil around it to add and reflect extra lighting in the beginning. No tripods or microphones, and no editing at all. Those early hairstyle videos were done in one take, with Shaun standing behind me with his Flip camera. I look back at them now and see how unprofessional and hokey they were! But that was very much what our followers loved and remains part of our story and culture today. I rarely showed my face, and we avoided showing the kids’ faces most of the time, too. We called the kids CGH1 and CGH2, etc., for many years because we were very concerned about safety issues online. Eventually, as our viewership grew, we realized the lighting needed to be better in order to showcase the hairstyling details, so we fashioned a spare bedroom into a comfortable set and rigged up higher-quality but affordable lighting.

As we became more comfortable with filming, Brooklyn and Bailey decided that they wanted to be more than just hair models—they wanted to talk about what they liked to do, eat, and wear. When they turned thirteen, we allowed them to make their own YouTube channel as a place where our family could post vlogs, fashion videos, cooking tutorials, and anything else that didn’t relate to hair. (Viewers had been asking for content like this from us, but it just didn’t seem to fit on a hairstyle channel.) Today, it’s still a very demanding job for the girls.

Around the same time, a network on YouTube asked me to anchor an online series for moms. I filmed fifty-two five-minute parenting advice videos, and they did so well that it deepened my previous desire to share similar parenting-oriented content on my own channel. YouTube’s demographic at the time was skewed quite young—mostly high school and college-age students—and as a result, Shaun and I were practically considered “online” grandparents! I know we wanted to be young parents, but I didn’t realize I would be a young “online grandparent” quite so fast! Luckily for us, that also meant that there were few other options available for those who wanted to view parenting-oriented videos on YouTube.

Just like the parents of newborns, digital content creators were feeling their way along, and everyone—YouTube personalities, advertisers, and even YouTube itself—was thrilled when this type of media turned into such a juggernaut. Our channel was never sexy or flashy; it was about hairstyling, learning a new skill, being a mom, and parenting. It was extremely gratifying to realize that my decision to add parenting alongside our hairstyle channel had been the right call.

Today, of course, YouTube offers much more family content. The platform has grown up and recognized the appeal of family entertainment—videos that parents watch with their kids. Over the years, our channel has also evolved a little bit as well. We’ve pulled the family content forward even more by launching Behind the Braids, a vlog series that showcases our family in everyday situations. Our hair content remains popular as a useful evergreen reference, but creating more family-oriented content keeps us relevant.

We are the Tortoise in this story, not the Hare. It’s taken YouTube over a decade to figure out what kind of content it is looking to promote and which content brings in the highest ad revenue, and viewer preferences have taken nearly as long to fully develop. Those preferences will most definitely shift, which is why being able to adapt is essential. Many of our earliest subscribers still follow me today. Back then, our channel catered to moms with young children; now, those little kids have become tweens or teens who want to do their own hair. Some subscribers were teenagers when we started and are now young moms with their own children. Thinking about that kind of makes me feel old in a funny way, but I’m incredibly delighted to be growing with our audience!

It also made me realize that being a mom was a lot like making my hair how-to’s. Sometimes there were literally hours and hours of work and preparation for a one-minute shot. Viewers only saw the final version—not the research and the practice (often on my long-hair mannequin heads, Anna and Hannah, who still scare the pants off me when I walk into the bathroom and forget they’re there!) and all the mistakes I made along the way. But the more I did it, the better my handiwork looked and the more quickly I figured things out.

To this day, I couldn’t tell you how I came up with all my hairstyling ideas and skills. Some came easy as I had been doing them for years; others took a ton of work. I didn’t always create the hairstyles myself, rather sometimes relying on my hair-dar (the ability to see great hairstyles everywhere you go and add your own flair), and I never had any professional training. I simply found out that I was really good at it. I also learned that I have an innate ability to see an image or a video of a hairstyle, figure out how it was prepared, break that process down into small segments, eliminate any unnecessary steps, and teach it to other people with easy-to-follow efficiency.

Likewise, I learned to approach each parenting problem as a puzzle. I dismantle, dissect, and de-clutter the many minuscule pieces and parts of the issue and share my new understanding in small, incremental pieces that make sense to other people. I try to give my followers easy, usable solutions to their hairstyling problems, and I try to give people easy, usable solutions to their parenting problems, too. Sometimes it’s not even about solving the problem for them, but rather just giving them enough other ideas or thoughts to help them figure out the solution themselves.

Shaun and I realized that having a successful family is somewhat similar to running a successful workplace, but with a lot more love. Both require strategy, budgets, planning ahead, accountability, good corporate culture, having a Plan B and a Plan C in case Plan A doesn’t work—and the creativity to improve and adapt as needed. As our family grew, we couldn’t just plan ahead. We had to see each of our children for who they truly were so we could best meet their needs. Every day, I get them off to school, work full-time, get the house cleaned, shop for and cook good meals, make sure the kids get home, shuttle them to sports and music lessons, supervise homework, get them tucked in, and sometimes still have time to take a bath, make plans for the future, pay the bills, and say hello to Shaun (who is my equal partner in all this)!

Every mom knows how overwhelming parenting can be when a thousand things are pulling you in every direction, and how easy it is to get bogged down in how to do it all at the same time. I often joke that we’re almost like the Von Trapp family from The Sound of Music: A whistle is blown, and everyone marches down the steps and obediently lines up. Okay, I am kidding, because, like every family, we also have emotions running high, temper tantrums, and squabbles all the time, but we also have a very specific routine. For our household to run smoothly, we’ve had to develop rules and a system that works for us.

We’ve made thousands of mistakes in the course of getting our family here, but we’ve learned a lot along the way. Being a full-time mom and a full-time digital media expert at the same time hasn’t been easy. We’re not perfect, but we try!

In fact, even though my family is now in the public eye, I still consider myself your typical everyday mom. Though it’s hard for me to think of myself as unique, I know I’ve created something original that resonates strongly with millions of girls and their moms and helps those families to improve, too. I am very lucky to have been raised with such a strong sense of family, a sturdy work ethic, and faith, all of which have shown me the importance of rules, boundaries, and structure. I strive to do my work with integrity and to raise my children with loving guidance. At the end of the day, that is what we all want as parents—to raise compassionate, kind, thriving children who can figure out their purpose and find the happiness they deserve.


Brooklyn and Bailey

Our twenty-year-old twin daughters were born on New Year’s Eve in 1999—yes, the waning hours of the second millennium. What a way to ring in the New Year! From birth, they charmed every person they met with their bubbly personalities and penchant for getting people to smile. I guess you could say they are contagiously fun girls who love to sing, perform, and meet their viewers. I learned quickly with two babies that it takes a village to raise children. Family, friends, and sometimes even perfect strangers were helpers and givers of kindness when I needed extra arms to carry, bounce, feed, or otherwise learn how to become a new mom to two babies. Now, if we can just get them to keep their room clean!


Born in 2002, Kamri is the girl who inspires us by choosing soccer and basketball instead of traditional girly stuff. She knows the most arcane facts about the most unusual topics, and wears me down with her incessant begging for the latest Twitter trend she saw that day. The twins certainly know how to steal a room, but when Kamri walks in, people are struck not just by her beauty but also by her quiet dignity. You don’t even have to hear her speak to be drawn to her.


Born in 2005, Rylan also started out as a twin, but we lost her sibling during pregnancy. She has more personality than all our other children combined, and an especially wonderful sense of humor. I also call Rylan my little “button pusher”—out of all my kids, she’s the most likely to have the sibling sitting next to her in tears. Like her older sisters, she has an amazing voice and is the one most likely to be heard belting out Taylor Swift songs when she’s in the shower. She’s creative and talented and sees life as one giant game.


Our only son and first adopted child was born in 2008. We were there for his delivery, and I held his mother’s leg while she pushed him out! It was a truly beautiful experience when, after I cut the cord that bound him to his first mother, the doctor placed him into my waiting arms as his second mother. We tell him all the time that he is so special that he was blessed with two mommies that love him. Dax has been diagnosed with a hyposensitivity disorder, all three subtypes of ADHD, and level 1 autism. He sometimes struggles with simple things, especially those that require fine motor skills or social skills. Tasks like tying his shoes, making friends, and handwriting are difficult for him, but he’s academically brilliant. We quickly learned that sports weren’t his thing, but thankfully, he’s discovered passions for coding and engineering. At any given time, you can find him writing simple apps, programming drones, or creating webpages and avatars. We’ve struggled and grown the most as parents because of Daxton, and wouldn’t have it any other way.



On Sale
Apr 2, 2019
Page Count
288 pages

Mindy McKnight

About the Author

Mindy McKnight launched the website in late 2008 and the subsequent CuteGirlsHairstyles YouTube channel in early 2009. While Mindy’s hairstyle tutorials began as a hobby, they have paved the way to a large family social media empire including over 23 million followers across all social platforms, 6 successful YouTube channels, and several highly successful off-platform businesses. The video content created has now been viewed more than 2 billion times worldwide. Mindy is currently ranked as one of the Top-25 Women on YouTube with over 5.6 million subscribers, generating 10 million monthly views. The family has been featured in local, national, and global media outlets including ABCNews’ 20/20, Good Morning America, TODAY, Anderson LIVE, Katie, and The View.

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