Rory Birkbeck and Aaron Sinclair are both smart guys.
Together they have over 30 years’ combined experience in IT but even they couldn’t find a simple product that would protect children from seeing pornographic material online.
Rory was working for a home-based education provider and was responsible for over 70 iPads that both teachers and pre-schoolers had access to. “We had amazing infrastructure and resources but making those iPads safe was almost impossible.”
He then discovered his friend, Aaron, was fighting the same battle. “He was a highly qualified network engineer and it took him two weeks to build something he could use at home to protect his own kids online.”
Off-the-shelf anti-porn software programmes have to be installed across multiple devices, be updated regularly, and tend to ‘over-block’ the internet which frustrates people to the extent they often get rid of it, Rory explains.
“The solution needed to be dead simple. And if we couldn’t do it, how could the average person on the street help protect their kids for seeing harmful stuff online?”
So in 2016 the pair took matters into their own hands and developed Safe Surfer.
Once set up on your internet router at home, Safe Surfer blocks harmful websites using tools such as Google SafeSearch and YouTube restrictions.
Any computer or device that connects to your home’s broadband or Wi-Fi is then unable to access inappropriate websites or videos. It’s easy to use as there’s no need to install or update software.
Over 7000 people have already signed up and 10,000 people have downloaded Safe Surfer’s new Android App which was only launched in March this year. “It blocks pornographic material on your phone so now it will be safe anywhere, not just when it’s connected to your home’s Wi-Fi.”
The pair have chosen to run Safe Surfer as a social enterprise because the goal of reducing children’s access to porn is the most important aim. That means people choose to pay whatever amount they’re able to afford rather than a fixed price.
“You can choose to pay a one-off or re-occurring amount of your choice. We hope families who can afford it will pay something regularly to help us sustain and grow Safe Surfer so others can benefit too.”
BayTrust has granted Safe Surfer $15,000 towards their operational costs in 2017 to help spread the word in this region and keep momentum building.
“We’re over the moon that BayTrust cares enough about this issue. Because we’ve gone down the social enterprise track we’re more reliant on community funders to help us make it work, so this grant is absolutely fantastic.”
Rory says there’s mounting public concern about the harm pornography can have on society, particularly on children and teenagers who can easily access the internet on smartphones, iPads and laptops.
“Kids aged 6 – 18 can be accidentally exposed to a horrendous amount of pornography and it’s really distorting their view about love and relationships. They are growing up thinking this behaviour is normal and it’s leading to an increase in porn addiction and sexual aggression worldwide.”
Rory says Safe Surfer is a way families can put some common sense measures in place.
“It only takes five minutes to install and no tech skills are needed. It runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week so it’s literally a case of ‘set and forget’. Once you’ve completed the initial set up on your home computer, all other devices that use the same internet connection will be protected from then onwards.”
To set up Safe Surfer or find out more, visit www.safesurfer.co.nz.