AYER - Ayer-Shirley middle-school students received an important education on how to stay safe online through a program titled "Navigating the Cyber World" hosted by the Middlesex District Attorney's Office.

More than 300 middle-school students attended the early morning program on Nov. 5, where Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan led a program focusing on online privacy, appropriate use of the Internet, chatting, sexting and cyber bullying. Other speakers included David Solet, general counsel and chief of the MDAO's Cyber Protection Program, Ayer-Shirley Superintendent of Schools Carl Mock, and Ayer Police Chief William Murphy.

As children and teenagers become more and more accustomed to communicating and sharing information online, the Middlesex District Attorney's Office is educating students, as well as their parents, teachers and coaches, about how to protect themselves online.

In addition to cyber bullying, the program discussed the dangers of sexting with seventh- and eighth-grade students. Sexting involves sending a nude or semi-nude photo electronically. While the initial message was intended to be private, it is easily shared, sent and forwarded to others. The image will spread across a school community, resulting in a humiliating situation for the party involved, and, in some cases, is an offense that can be criminally prosecuted as dissemination of child pornography.


Where predators continue to use the Internet to find victims, the cyber safety program also educates students on how stay safe online, including avoiding scams, being mindful of fake personas and profiles online, and never agreeing to meet a person on the Internet.

The Middlesex District Attorney's Office and Middlesex Partnerships for Youth Inc. developed an informational brochure, Technology Tips for Parents (middlesexpartnershipsforyouth.com/pdf/mpfy_broch_tech__MARIAN.pdf), for more information for parents on their child's use of the Internet and social media.