Dubbed 'Internet Dad,' Rob Kenney uploads videos helping kids acquire simple life skills such as tying a tie, baking a cake and more.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on May 3, 2022. It has since been updated.
Rob Kenney's dad was never around to help him with anything but he wants to be there for others in a similar predicament. Rob Kenney started a YouTube channel: "Dad, how do I?" to provide practical advice on fixing things at home while also providing emotional support. Kenney started the channel but never imagined it would become this popular. He now has 3.95 million subscribers. "I will do my best to provide useful, practical content to many basic tasks that everyone should know how to do," he describes the channel. The videos aren't limited to fixing things; they also include storytime and even dad chats.
Kenney started the channel because he knows what it feels like to not have a dad around to teach you things. When his parents got divorced, his mother was legally declared unfit to parent, reported The Washington Post. She had turned to alcohol to cope with anxiety and depression. This meant that he was to go with his dad, who gained custody. His dad soon had a girlfriend and ignored the kids. He would stock up on the kids' groceries and then leave them for a week. More than a year later, he announced to the kids that he wasn't coming back. “I’m done raising kids,” he told them. Kenney, the seventh of eight siblings, was 14 years old at the time.
After his dad left, Kenney moved in with his 23-year-old newlywed brother in a 280-square-foot trailer in Bellevue, Washington. His teenage years were filled with anger and confusion. Kenney vowed he would never let his children go through such pain. He soon realized that he wasn't alone and there were many kids who didn't have a father figure around to help and guide them and many didn't have a parental figure. He grew up and is now married to Annelli and is a dad to two children—26-year-old son Kyle and 29-year-old daughter Kristine Ponten. Having raised his children into adults, he was feeling a little lost.
Kenney talked to his family about starting a YouTube channel and they were all supportive. He made plans but only realized them during the coronavirus pandemic. His first video was about tying a tie. Kenney slowly started gaining followers because he was providing key life skills for free while encouraging viewers as well. Many who felt isolated due to the pandemic felt comforted by his videos and style of speaking. His daughter believes the pandemic played a key role in making his videos go viral. “I don’t think it would’ve gone viral in another circumstance,” said Ponten. “It is definitely pandemic-specific regarding the beginnings of it.”
Kenney also likes to keep things light and conversational. While many content creators urge their viewers to subscribe and like their videos, Kenney doesn't even bother. He records the videos and edits them while his daughter manages his Facebook and Instagram pages. “I genuinely think he was put on Earth to be a dad,” said Ponten. Kenney nearly had a panic attack the first time he went viral. The attention was new to Kenney, who's an introvert. “It was terrifying,” he said. “At first, I didn’t look at it as a great thing." He was dubbed the 'Internet Dad.' Kenney knows his channel isn't just about fixing things and guiding viewers through DIY projects, but also connecting with them. “There’s so much more to being a dad or a mom than just fixing things,” he said. “You have to share your heart with your kids.”
His videos resonated with so many. "My parents divorced when I was 15. I had to figure out how to tie my own tie and my mom taught me how to shave. Yes, I’m crying watching this. Thank you for being a Dad to so many kids. I’m 53 today, and I just wanted to say Thank You! And God bless you!!" wrote one person.