When does posting our kids’ pics online cross the line?

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The day we dropped my son off at his college. Yes, I posted this on Facebook.

Parents are a strange lot. In a recent survey, a majority of parents worry that their children may be victims of pedophilia, stalking, kidnapping and cyberbullying—yet they post their kids’ pictures online at least once a day. According to an article in Michigan’s Morning Sun called “Survey: Parents ignore concerns of sharing images of children online,” more than 58 percent of parents don’t consider if their children want their images posted online in the first place.

Since I joined Facebook at least 10 years ago, I’ve posted plenty of pictures of my kids. Like their first days of school, graduation, proms, swim meets, vacations, etc. I never once was concerned with what my kids thought of my FB posts. Isn’t that funny considering how I HATE IT when a friend posts a picture of me? So, why on earth did I think it was okay to post pics of my kids willy-nilly?

I spent the weekend with my daughter and told her about my idea for her first day of work. I wrote about that here. She laughed but said absolutely “NO” on posting a picture of her leaving on her first day of work. However, she was more open to a photo of her pupper Waffles on her first day of adulting. At that moment, a flash went through my brain. My kids are now adults. They are autonomous, no longer under my control, or mine to post pics of them whenever I fancy. Shouldn’t they have had some say so all along? My son and daughter have never been shy about telling me to take down a photo or complaining about my posts. I just never listened carefully before.

From the article I mentioned, McAfee surveyed parents about their kid pic posting habits:

Nearly half of parents are concerned about pedophilia, and yet almost a third of parents surveyed said in a recent poll that they post a video or picture of their child at least once a day on social media.

Cybersecurity company McAfee recently announced results of its latest survey, The Age of Consent, and found 30 percent of parents post a photo or video of their child at least once a day on their social media accounts with 12 percent posting four or more times per day — showing the extent of child exposure on the web.

Most parents identified the following concerns associated with sharing images online including pedophilia (49 percent), stalking (48 percent), kidnapping (45 percent) and cyberbullying (31 percent). But 58 percent don’t consider whether their child would consent to their image being posted online. In fact, 22 percent of parents think their child is too young to decide, and another 19 percent think it should always be left up to the parent to decide.

However, these concerns doesn’t translate into action, as many admit to still including children’s personal information and private details in online images.

For example, half of the parents surveyed admit that they have or would share a photo of their child in their school uniform despite the risk of giving away personal information. Yet, it’s comforting to see the majority (70 percent) of parents are only sharing photos of children on private social media accounts. This is certainly a good first step, but there is much more needed to be done to ensure parents are protecting their children’s identity.

“Posting photos and videos on social media is a great way for parents to share what’s going on in their lives with loved ones,” said Gary Davis, chief consumer security evangelist at McAfee. “However, the survey reveals parents are not giving enough consideration to what they post online and how it could harm their children. If shared images get into the wrong hands, they can be used to gather information like birth dates, home address, school, or even the child’s full name which could lead to cyberbullying or even identity theft.”

I think the survey has some good ideas for us parents to think about—before we post. Also, take into consideration what our kids would like us to do with THEIR images. I remember my daughter’s freshman year of college. Her so-called friends stalked my FB page and downloaded embarrassing pictures of my daughter—Snap Chatting and Instagramming them. I feel bad about how I unknowingly contributed to online bullying. It was all in good fun and I’m sure and not meant to be bullying—but what would you call it when friends post pre-pubescent “ugly” photos of you—without your permission?

Here are four tips for parents sharing children’s photos online from the Morning Sun article:

Parental Tips for Safe Sharing

Watch out for geo-tagging. Many social networks will tag a user’s location when a photo is uploaded. Parents should ensure this feature is turned off to avoid disclosing their location. This is especially important when posting photos away from home.

Lock down privacy settings. Parents should only share photos and other social media posts with their intended audience. Services like Facebook and Instagram have features that allow posts to be shared only with confirmed connections, but everything posted on a social network should be treated as if it’s public.

Set ground rules with friends, family and children. Be clear with friends and family about guidelines when posting images. These rules can help avoid unwanted situations where a family member has shared photos without explicit permission. Don’t forget that these ground rules should also apply to parents to protect the children in the images from embarrassment, anxiety or even cyberbullying.

Take control of your personal information. As the number of reported data breaches continue to rise, so too does the possibility of identity theft. For children who are too young for a credit card, parents should freeze their credit to avoid any unauthorized use. An identity theft protection solution like McAfee Identity Theft Protection can help consumers proactively protect their identity and keep their personal information secured from misuse.

 

Maybe I’ll stick to posting pictures of Waffles and Olive from now on. I don’t think the dog and cat will mind too much.

What do you think about your children’s safety or their opinions when you post their pictures online? 

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What I’m Dying to Do on My Daughter’s First Day of Work

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My kids four years ago.

She starts work on Monday. This is her first post-college “real job.” I’ve been looking at all the pics on Facebook with the first day of school photos. Something that parents of younger kids do today that we did not for the photo of that momentous day each year—they pose their children with signs. Some are simple cardboard with black sharpie touting “First Day of Kindergarten” and some are elaborate and framed.

I never did that. In fact, I don’t know a single person who did that during our day and age of being parents of young kiddos. We did snap a picture — and back then it wasn’t digital— of our kids glowering at us in their carefully chosen first-day outfits. I guess, looking back, it would be helpful to have the grade and year staring back from the photo, but I can mostly tell which year it was. I’m only off by one or two years.

So, my daughter’s first day of work is coming up. I’m on my way to spend a few days with her in her new home. I’m planning on helping her build a few pieces of furniture from Ikea, unpack boxes and organize so she doesn’t feel like she’s drowning in clutter and chaos. On her first day of work, I’d love to go with her. I’d like to pretend that it’s back in the old days when I could walk into her classroom with her and see where her desk was. Where her cubby was for her lunchbox. But, of course, I won’t do that.

But, what are the odds that she’ll pose for me holding a sign? Slim to none? Well, I think it would be cute. Fun. And of course, I’m kidding about going to work with her. And taking the picture. Sort of. But if I can’t get her to take the “First Day of Work” pic, I can always try one with Waffles. “First Day Home Alone.” Or, “First Day in Doggie Daycare!” He’s a known poser for sure.

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Waffles Utah Grad Pic, Class of 2018.

What’s your opinion of the first day of school pictures? Do you have a family tradition that you follow?

How a college kid made a career out of tweeting

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Our very own Waffles!

I’m a big “WeRateDogs” fan. Whenever I check out the Instagram or Twitter account, I always laugh. It’s a great break from 24/7 news and politics. It gives me a chance to relax and smile–and it’s an easy way to be entertained.

I read an article today on COISKI, which I’m figuring out is short for “Content Is King” about Matt Nelson, who was a college kid when he created the “WeRateDogs” brand. Not only does he have more than 6 million followers, he has published a book and other merchandise like mugs and caps. He’s releasing a calendar for 2019 and a 2020 one will be published, too. His merchandise can be found on his website or Amazon.

Here’s an excerpt from the article by John Zmikly:

How the Creator of “WeRateDogs” Built a 6+ Million Twitter Following

Matt Nelson’s love for comedy – not just doggos and puppers – motivated him to create the account and company

Three years ago in a North Carolina Applebee’s, former Campbell University student, Matt Nelson, tweeted about the “petability” of a Japanese Irish Setter who supposedly lost an eye in Vietnam.

Literally overnight – and several hilarious tweets later – Nelson’s @dog_rates Twitter account garnered about 500 followers. By the end of the month, that number grew to over 100,000. Little did Nelson know, his “WeRateDogs” Twitter account would change the direction of his life – and digital doggo culture – forever.

With over 6.9 million followers on Twitter today, @dog_rates has become one of the most successful pet-rating accounts on social media. But the brand reaches far beyond Twitter. Since his fateful Applebee’s tweet in 2015, We Rate Dogs has become a full-on brand, adding a merch line, publishing a recent Amazon best-selling calendar, and Nelson leverages speaking engagements and has even partnered with established brands, like Disney, to continue growing the brand’s powerfully loyal following.

I have sent in several pictures of my daughter’s pug Waffles and our RIP lab Angus. WeRateDogs posted the picture of Waffles above. I’d never seen so much action on my social media. Ever. When he liked my Angus pics on a Saturday when he features senior doggos, I received so many comments about our beloved Angus.

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This is a post from today.

I found it interesting that Nelson dropped out of school to pursue a career based on tweeting. I wonder what I would have said if my son or daughter did that? It has worked out well for him:

From Part-Time Hobby to Full-Time Career

A freshman at Campbell University at the time, Nelson had been going to school for professional golf management. But school soon took a back seat to his greater passion – digital media.

“I soon became obsessed with social and digital media and the creative outlet they offered,” said Nelson.

Not wanting to be “that guy” who created multiple parody accounts and stole other peoples’ content, Nelson said he truly became invested in the writing and humor aspects of content development.

“There are plenty of cute animal accounts out there, but from the beginning, I went out of my way to make my posts humorous, and to try to give the account a real personality. I think that’s what made We Rate Dogs so refreshing. I can’t argue that the pictures don’t drive the audience — they do. But I have developed a style that allows the image and the caption to lean on each other in a creative way,” he said.

Nelson has now made a career out of digital content creation, sometimes spending hours writing and reading tweets before they’re posted.

“I often laugh that I’m basically telling the same joke over and over again because every post has a caption, rating, and a comment. That’s it. But every word has intent behind it, and the picture and caption have to go hand-in-hand,” he said.

Community, humor and original content are just a few reasons the @dog_rates earns roughly 8,000-12,000 new followers each day. And they’re also why Nelson’s other endeavors, like his recent Amazon Best-Selling calendar – have been so successful.

But along with hard work, Nelson attributes much of his puppo prosperity to good fortune.

“My initial success has been just pure luck. The biggest thing for me lately has been the commitment to drop out of school and make the side hustle, the real hustle. It’s definitely new territory, but going “all in” has given me the chance to chase my passion. It was the right call for me.”

Nelson highlighted the importance of following a dream, though sometimes working a regular job or going to school may be required to see it through.

“The traditional path is not the only path. College isn’t always the next stop, and it’s definitely not the only path to success anymore. There are so many different roads. The field is truly even if everyone has internet access, and a little bit of creativity goes a long way as long as you don’t ignore that passion.”

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This is one of my favorite ones–and obviously other people liked it too.

Nelson has created his own vocabulary for dogs such as “puppers” and “doggos,” and his curse word “h*ck.” After I read WeRateDogs religiously, the doggo slang slipped into my vocabulary, too.

Another amazing thing about WeRateDogs is the sense of community. When someone’s pupper is sick or needs surgery, Nelson tweets and money and love pour in.

Does WeRateDogs brighten your day, too? Are there any Twitter or Instagram accounts that you love?

 

What do you think about boosting your social media with fake followers?

 

 

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Real-life friends.

Have you read the stories about people paying for fake Twitter followers? Doesn’t that sound sad to pay for “friends?” Apparently many celebs, famous people do it as well as everyday folks. Somehow upping their numbers in followers makes them feel secure or more popular?

I was talking to my daughter this morning about social media and she told me she has real-life friends that obsess over Instagram. They work to have a perfect image and the photos she sent me of them are so ridiculous. Perfect make-up, poses, backgrounds. It looks like an incredible amount of time and effort went into these pictures. And I know these girls and in real life–they barely resemble the image they are promoting. I don’t get it.

 

I’m so thankful we didn’t have social media when I was a kid. It was nice to have a break from your “public image” and lounge around in my bedroom or in front of the TV and not worry about what everyone else was doing. There was social pressure to fit in and be popular when I was in junior high and high school. That was enough in itself without having to keep up appearances on Facebook and Instagram. I wonder how many kids today are resorting to fake followers or obsessing over their social media image?

Here’s an excerpt from “Paying to be popular: inside social media’s black market for fake followers” by Nicholas Confessore, Gabriel J.X. Dance, Richard Harris and Mark Hansen that appeared in the New York Times and Seattle Times:

“The real Jessica Rychly is a Minnesota teenager with a broad smile and wavy hair. She likes reading and the rapper Post Malone. When she goes on Facebook or Twitter, she sometimes muses about being bored or trades jokes with friends.

But on Twitter, there is a version of Jessica that none of her friends or family would recognize. While the two Jessicas share a name, photograph and whimsical bio, the other Jessica promoted accounts hawking Canadian real-estate investments, cryptocurrency and a radio station in Ghana. The fake Jessica followed or retweeted accounts using Arabic and Indonesian, languages the real Jessica does not speak. While she was a 17-year-old high-school senior, her fake counterpart frequently promoted pornography.

All these accounts belong to customers of an obscure U.S. company named Devumi that has collected millions of dollars in a shadowy global marketplace for social-media fraud. Devumi sells Twitter followers and retweets to anyone who wants to appear more popular or exert influence online. Drawing on an estimated stock of at least 3.5 million automated accounts, each sold many times over, the company has provided customers with more than 200 million Twitter followers, a New York Times investigation found.

Several Devumi customers acknowledged that they bought bots because their careers had come to depend, in part, on the appearance of social-media influence. “No one will take you seriously if you don’t have a noteworthy presence,” said Jason Schenker, an economist who specializes in economic forecasting and has purchased at least 260,000 followers.

More than 100 self-described influencers — whose market value is even more directly linked to their follower counts on social media — have purchased Twitter followers from Devumi.

After reading countless articles of how social media is adding to our children’s stress, anxiety and depression, I’m beginning to think of it as more evil than good. Yes, I’ve enjoyed reuniting with friends I’ve lost touch with. Yes, I like the updates from my second cousin about her chemo treatments. Other than that, I think I might be happier without it. I used to get birthday phone calls each year and look forward to talking to my friends who bothered to call. Nowadays, I get a string of “happy birthdays” on Facebook. It’s not the same thing. I think we avoid talking and interacting in person, thanks to social media. It’s so much easier to text or PM rather than the give and take, patience and time, an actual phone call can take. I find I don’t like talking on the phone as much as I used to, and I often am the one to end the call first.

I pity the people who feel they have to have “followers” and buy friends. Especially if they feel their success depends upon it. I worry about this extra persona our children feel the need to create.

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Hanging out in our back yard with real live friends.

What are your thoughts about buying followers on social media?

How does Facebook make you feel?

 

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A picture I’ve posted on Facebook.

I’ve enjoyed Facebook to brag about my kids, reconnect with old friends and find out what they’re up to in their lives. In so many ways, Facebook can be a positive for us as individuals and society as a whole. As a Facebook user, I have moments when it makes me feel really good. Like when I reconnected with my best friend who I was rude to in junior high when I wanted to hang out with the cool kids. I hurt her feelings and I have never forgiven myself. Finally, I could apologize after all these years and continue our friendship—even if it’s only looking at each other’s photos of kids and travels.

But, now even Facebook admits that passively surfing through their website can make you feel sad. We know that perusing through glamour photos of our friends, looking at smiling faces of parties you’re not being invited to, or luxury exotic vacations can make you feel a little blue.

That’s why I found the article from Farad Manjoo this past week in the New York Times interesting. Here are the opening paragraphs from “Facebook Conceded It Might Make You Feel Bad. Here’s How to Interpret That:”

 

Facebook published a quietly groundbreaking admission on Friday. Social media, the company said in a blog post, can often make you feel good — but sometimes it can also make you feel bad.

Yes, I should have warned you to sit down first.

This is one of those stories where what’s being said isn’t as surprising as who’s saying it. Facebook’s using a corporate blog post to point to independent research that shows its product can sometimes lead to lower measures of physical and mental well-being should be regarded as a big deal. The post stands as a direct affront to the company’s reason for being; it’s as if Nike asked whether just doing it may not be the wisest life goal after all, or if Snapple conceded it wasn’t quite positive that it really was the best stuff on earth.

Consider Facebook’s place in the social-media firmament. Facebook — which also owns Facebook Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp — is the world’s largest and most profitable social media company. Its business model and its more airy social mission depend on the idea that social media is a new and permanently dominant force in the human condition.

So far, that idea has proved unwavering. Facebook’s leap into the ranks of the world’s most valuable companies less than 14 years after its founding can be attributed to this simple truth: Humans have shown no limit, so far, in their appetite for more Facebook.

But what if all that Facebook is not good for us? For several years, people have asked whether social media, on an individual level and globally, might be altering society and psychology in negative ways. Until about a year or so ago, Facebook’s public posture about its product had been overwhelmingly positive, as you’d expect. Facebook, Facebook insisted, was clearly good for the world.

Then came 2017. The concerns over social-media-born misinformation and propaganda during last year’s presidential race were one flavor of this worry. Another is what Facebook might be doing to our psychology and social relationships — whether it has addicted us to “short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops” that “are destroying how society works,” to quote Chamath Palihapitiya, one of several former Facebook executives who have expressed some version of this concern over the last few months.

Mr. Palihapitiya, who is now a venture capitalist, made those comments during a talk at Stanford University last month; after the comments were widely reported this week, he walked them back. But his fears have been echoed across Silicon Valley and lately have become something like a meme: What if Facebook is rotting our brains?

This gets to why an otherwise in-the-weeds blog post from Facebook’s research team is so interesting. Though it is quite abstruse, the post, by David Ginsberg and Moira Burke, two company researchers, takes readers through a tour of the nuances on whether Facebook can be bad for you.

In Psychology Today, March 2016, Amy Morin wrote: “Science Explains How Facebook Makes You Sad And why you keep using it anyway.” Here’s an excerpt from her story, but if you read all of it you’ll learn that just being aware that Facebook can make you feel sad, can help you.

More than one billion people log into Facebook every day. Whether their intention is to post a duck face selfie, or they want to read the headlines from their favorite news outlet, Facebook remains the world’s most popular social networking site.

Of course, it would seem logical to assume that people use Facebook because it somehow enhances their lives. But oddly, research suggests the opposite. Studies show Facebook use is associated with lower life satisfaction.

Wasting Time on Facebook Will Make You Sad
According to a 2014 study published in Computers in Human Behavior, most people aren’t using social media to be social. Only about 9 percent of Facebook’s users’ activities involve communicating with others.

Instead, most users consume random pieces of content. And researchers found that passively consuming information isn’t fulfilling or satisfying.

Study participants experienced a sharp decline in their moods after scrolling through Facebook. Interestingly, they didn’t experience the same emotional decline when they surfed the internet. The toll on mental health was unique to Facebook.

Through a series of studies, researchers concluded that by the time people log out of Facebook, they feel like they’ve wasted their time. Their remorse over being unproductive causes them to feel sad.

 

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I would have posted this pic of my kids on FB if it was around at the time.

What are your thoughts about social media and Facebook? Do you use it and how does it make you feel?

 

How to remain civil in an uncivil world

Olive in an uncivil mood.

Olive in an uncivil mood.

 

Two years ago to this very day, I wrote the following story. I can only say that rather than improving over two years, things seem far worse. I wish I had a solution or could offer suggestions about how to unite our uncivil society, but I can’t. I can only be conscious of my own actions and be grateful for what I have and try to set an example for my kids.

I’m trying very hard to not get caught up in all the over-reacting that’s floating around. Have you noticed a lot of intolerance and anger lately? People seem to get upset and outraged over the littlest things. Like Halloween costumes. Waiting in line. Political opinions. Slow drivers.

Read about how I got yelled at by a total stranger here

How we handle little things and disappointments in life in a positive way can help us become better role models for our kids. It can also change our outlook and make a frustrating day, a better one.

imgres-4I think email, texting, twitter and other social media, in general, can lead to misunderstandings and hard feelings. First of all, by emailing rather than having a conversation, a person can unload in ways they wouldn’t in person. He or she isn’t picking up on verbal and non-verbal cues. The conversation is totally one-sided without any give or take. We don’t have to bother with a discussion or to hear another person’s side of the story.

Online, have you read comment sections on a news or political story? If people can leave comments anonymously, look out! A snarky comment looks like an attaboy compared to the filth and nastiness you’ll read. People don’t tolerate differences of opinions and resort to name calling rather than debate issues. The anonymity of hiding behind a computer rather than facing someone is unleashing hostility and words that quite frankly are better left unsaid

imgres-3Have you ever texted someone or sent an email you didn’t mean to? Or, it went to the wrong person? How about thinking you hung up the iPhone, and you didn’t or pocket dialed the person, and they can hear your subsequent conversation?

It’s hard enough when you’re the one committing the faux pas and even harder when you’re on the receiving end.  Yikes. If this happens to you, take a minute and breathe. Realize you have a choice—how to react. You could get upset. You could make a big deal out of it and be confrontational.  Or, make the choice that it was a mistake and no ill will was intended. 

I believe it’s a choice we can make on a daily basis. Take a deep breath when you’re behind a slow driver. When you’re waiting behind an elderly person trying to work the ATM or checking out at the grocery store. Don’t automatically jump on the uber outrage. We don’t have a choice on what is happening, but we do have a choice on how we react.

Baby Olive.

Baby Olive.

I think the best choice is to be “merciful.” This word popped up on my iPad yesterday. It’s not a word we hear spoken out loud these days—unless we’re sitting in a pew. In the everyday world, it sounds old-fashioned and is not practiced much. I wasn’t quite sure of the exact meaning of “merciful” so I looked it up online at Merriam Webster:

treating people with kindness and forgiveness : not cruel or harsh : having or showing mercy: giving relief from suffering

I’m going to incorporate it into my everyday life when I feel the adrenalin or upset feelings start. I think if a lot more of us practiced mercy, our world would be a whole lot better.

We also need to keep in mind that our kids learn from our behavior. How we react to stress is most likely how they will deal with situations as they grow up.

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How about reaching out to those around you?

 

How do you make each day a friendlier and more civil place?

What is a “quarter-life crisis” and are our kids headed for one?

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As a parent with two kids in the millennial age group, I was struck by the term “quarter-life crisis.” There is definitely a transition period after college graduation and trying to figure out the next phase of their lives. My daughter is a senior in college and she’s unsure what comes next. My son spent six-months after college graduation trying out a few different jobs before landing one that he thinks he’s sticking with for “a year or two.” Then it’s back to graduate school?

In an article I read on CNBC, Linda Ha describes the uncertainty of graduating from college and facing the question—“what’s next?”

“Millennials face life after college, finding a ‘quarter-life crisis’ instead of dream jobs

“Some freshly minted graduates feel sad, helpless and isolated because of constant change and too many choices.

“The idea of a ‘quarter-life crisis’ has led some millennials to struggle in their search for post-graduate meaning.

” ‘I consistently tried to avoid people, and I would ignore messages on my phone,’ one grad tells CNBC.

“Raphael Natividad is guilty of something most millennials don’t usually do: ignoring his phone.

“Natividad, who recently graduated from the University of California, Irvine, with a degree in heath policy, has a legitimate reason, one that speaks to an existential crisis that has befallen a growing number recent graduates.

” ‘I was ashamed that I didn’t have a full-time job right after college, and that shame made me hesitant to spend time with underclassmen or with peers who I thought had brighter futures,’ Natividad told CNBC in a recent interview.

” ‘I consistently tried to avoid people, and I would ignore messages on my phone or on group chats to avoid any conversation about the future.’

“Although not an official designation by the American Psychiatric Association, a few therapists are using the term ‘post-graduation depression.’ According to mental health professionals — and recent graduates feeling its effects — the condition is characterized by a period of severe sadness, loss of motivation, helplessness and isolation due to constant change and an overabundance of choices.”

The article always references how social media is causing this age group to have more anxiety and depression. Everyone is portraying their life on social media as fantastic, amazing and that they are on track to success. In reality that makes some people feel withdrawn and less accomplished. The reality is that everyone is pretty much in the same boat. And yes, the transition from having a structured life with the focus on education and being supervised by parents to living alone and making their own decisions and choices is a tough one. We can make it better as parents by giving our kids more freedom to make choices when they’re younger.

Are your kids headed for a “quarter-life crisis?” Did you go through a rough transition from college life to adulthood, too?

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My millennials.