A Tauranga organisation has won a major technology award for its efforts to help keep children safe online.
Safe Surfer has developed a new "Lifeguard" device which can be attached to any modem. It blocks websites containing pornography, violence, gambling and other harmful material.
Their efforts have resulted in the organisation being named "Tech Innovator of the Year" at the 2018 NZ Charities Technology Awards, organised by Tech Soup NZ and backed by Microsoft.
Safe Surfer was established in 2016 by Tauranga IT experts Aaron Sinclair and Rory Birkbeck. The men wanted to prevent their own young families from accidentally seeing pornographic images while using the internet.
Safe Surfer is now being used by more than 300,000 individuals, families and businesses worldwide and the organisation is supported by a growing number of concerned parents and volunteers. Their new "Lifeguard" device – developed locally at the end of last year – has since beefed up protection further.
"It's a smart device which plugs straight into your existing modem to create a safe wireless hotspot within your home," Sinclair said.
"You can use it to set time restrictions or determine what hours of the day your children are online. You can choose what material to block from 20 different categories and you can generate a report on all your internet traffic. It also enforces safe search options on Google and YouTube so pornographic material can't be accidentally seen."
Birkbeck said the device also featured a "stop/pause" button which immediately shut down the internet and took all devices offline.
"It gives parents peace of mind and control over what their children can see online. In many instances, pornographic material is hidden within seemingly innocent websites and kids accidentally stumble across it. But once they've seen it, it's too late to erase those images."
In New Zealand a 2017 Colmar Brunton poll confirmed 82 per cent of 16-18 year-olds have seen pornography and almost one-third of New Zealand boys were watching porn several times a week.
Safe Surfer beat two other finalists to win the "Tech Innovator of the Year" award in Auckland before Easter.
"It's a wonderful acknowledgement of the hard work we've put in and the value we're adding to our community. We're really stoked to have won," Birkbeck said.
In addition to the "Lifeguard" device, the Safe Surfer app can be used on smartphones.
Around 300 "Lifeguard" devices have been sold since January this year and shipping is now available worldwide.
To find out more about Safe Surfer visit www.safesurfer.co.nz.