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How to keep kids' privacy in check as they return to school

While you might be tempted to post a classic back-to-school snapshot, there are a few things you might want to consider.

NEWBERRY COUNTY, S.C. — With kids heading back to school, first day snapshots are a tradition. But when posting online, law enforcement says there are some things you may want to consider when it comes to protecting your family’s privacy.

"It’s a wonderful time but it can also be a dangerous time," Newberry County Sheriff Lee Foster said about the start of school.

That’s because of social media. Foster says a return to school can be a good time to review your family’s plan for staying safe online.

"On social media, anybody can be anything or anybody else just by being on a keyboard and typing something in, so you don’t know who you’re talking to," he said.

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Some people want to communicate with kids. Others, he said, are just seeking out pictures. 

"There are some really scary things out there right now about the use of the pictures," Foster said. "But you also want to be cognizant about people that will reach out and contact their children through the social media for nefarious reasons."

Danielle McCarty has two kids in the Newberry County School District. With her sons Thomas and Cash, she says she tries to keep in mind what she’s posting.

"Just protecting where they go to school, what their grade is, who their teacher is," she said. "Just really keeping them from being at the paws of a predator."

She says she always tries to keep this in mind, but especially when back-to-school rolls around.

"Putting their school out there tells them ‘Hey this kid's gonna be here and we know when they get out of school and where they go to school," she said.

Educating children your kids on what - or what not - to post is important. But when was the last time you thought about what you yourself are sharing?

Emma Rush is an education coordinator for SC Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force with the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office. She says it’s important to check your social media privacy settings for any location tags or follower settings.

"Those predators now know your kid’s location, their grade, their favorite activities, all kinds of things about them that can really give them an easy way to groom them so to speak," Rush said.

Overall, she said it’s important to have an open and honest communication with your children about how you both can post safely.

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"Social media and technology is such a big part of kids’ worlds these days that it’s really hard to try and keep them away from it," Rush said. "They’re gonna have access to it in some way, shape or form so the more involved you are in a non-judgmental way, the better."

McCarty echoed these thoughts. She says she communicates with her sons about safety when it comes to posting on social media.

"The internet has made it easy. It’s made life easy, but it’s also made finding people easier," McCarty said.

When it comes to broaching the subject, Rush has advice on how to communicate transparently.

"If they’re afraid that opening up to you will result in some type of punishment or you may take away that social media or electronic device, they’re going to be a lot more closed off about it," she said. "You just want to be really open. Ask them about their favorite apps, how they use them, why they’re interested in them and what they get out of it."

RELATED: Newberry County explores possibility of year-round learning for students starting in 2023

Foster also recommended not tagging your children in first day of school posts to ensure their privacy if they have their own accounts.

"Share it another way with your child but don’t tag them with their social media names because that gives access to people who may see someone and think ‘I want to target that child for whatever I want to do," Foster said.

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