Seven years ago, my daughter asked a highly sexualized question. I didn’t know this “thing” existed until I was a nineteen-year-old college student. She was NINE!
Eventually I discovered another fourth grader had watched a sexually graphic video at home and then shared the details the details with a group of kids. No screens were present, but my child had clearly been exposed to pornography.
My daughter’s question turned my world upside down and opened my eyes to the far-reaching impact of the digital world. My girl, who didn’t even have her own phone at the time, was learning about adult issues way too soon, and I was clueless, completely unaware of what she was being exposed to. Her question was a wake-up call for me. That’s when my crazy cyberparenting journey began.
In sheer desperation, I started a moms’ group in my Texas community. I was hoping someone would tell me I was overreacting. The opposite happened. Other parents started sharing their own scary stories with me. I realized I wasn’t alone.
That group expanded at a blistering speed. We also started an online group that rapidly grew with thousands of moms from all over the world. I was then asked to speak on TV and radio. We quickly realized that we needed to make our resources available to everyone (not just moms).
So in 2016, we formed nextTalk, a 501(c)(3) organization in the state of Texas. The founding families in our nonprofit had kids from two to twenty years of age in private and public schools, as well as homeschool. Different educational settings work for different families, but we saw the same problems in all three environments because the online world is everywhere.
In February 2017, I published my first book, TALK: A Practical Approach to Cyberparenting and Open Communication. Then in May of that year, nextTalk launched a radio program on a local station in San Antonio and recorded a new show every week. We started out with just a few hundred listeners, and in just three years, our podcast audience expanded to tens of thousands in sixty countries. It has been incredible to watch God grow our organization!
In 2018, we produced a nine-week video study. Each thirty-minute video features moms, dads, and kids and includes discussion questions. To date, our videos have been viewed in thirty-seven states and twenty countries.
In 2019, TALK won first place in the Family/Parenting category of the Illumination Book Awards. Since then, I’ve shared my story with thousands of people as I’ve traveled across Texas, Ohio, Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Georgia. Only God!
I love meeting families and spending one-on-one time with parents at our nextTalk events. I’ve learned so much from them, and their stories have deeply impacted my passion to keep kids safe online.
In 2020, I wrote my most recent book, Keeping Kids Safe in a Digital World.
We’re in uncharted territory. The accelerated growth of technology has changed the entire landscape of parenting. A shift has taken place that we must recognize. What our children are encountering digitally raises complicated questions at earlier ages, and many of us (me! me! me!) feel inadequate to address them. So, what do we do?
My gut reaction was to bubble wrap my child, but that created rebellion. It was also a false sense of security. I could take away all online access at home, but when she left the house other kids could still tell her what they saw online. I couldn’t control it. So, we finally faced the reality. Instead of saying “no” to all technology, we made a conscious decision to teach ourselves how to effectively parent it.I discovered cyberparenting isn’t only about rules and restrictions; it’s also about relationship. The solution is—open communication. It sounds simple, but the process of achieving it is complicated and time consuming. We actually have to create a new culture of conversation in our homes. No topic can be off-limits.
We are in this together. Learning together. I’m not an expert. I’m a mom in the trenches with you, day after day. I’m speaking and writing in real time.
You are not alone. You are not the only one struggling. Do you have a similar lightbulb moment when you recognized that our screen-crazed world has changed parenting? I’d love to hear your story.
Mandy Majors grew up in a small Indiana town and graduated from Indiana University with a BA in political science and criminal justice. She’s been happily married to her best friend, Matt, for twenty-one years, and together they’re raising two teens in a quaint little Texas community. Mandy is the author of the award-winning book, TALK, and Keeping Kids Safe in Digital World, co-host of nextTalk podcast, speaker and founder of nextTalk, a nonprofit organization passionate about creating a culture of honest conversation in homes, churches and schools to keep kids safe in a digital world.
Mandy’s time is split between researching, team building, speaking, writing and talking to her family about everything. And she’s completely addicted to Diet Coke.