Internet safety innovators win

The minds behind ‘Lifeguard’ – Aaron Sinclair and Rory Birkbeck.


A device developed in Tauranga aimed at keeping kids safe online has won a major technology award.

Local organisation Safe Surfer has developed the new ‘Lifeguard’ device which can easily be plugged into any modem. It blocks websites containing pornography, violence, gambling and other harmful material.

Safe Surfer has been named Tech Innovator of the Year at the 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, who wanted to prevent their own young families from accidentally seeing pornographic images while using the internet. Safe Surfer is now a growing movement of concerned parents and volunteers.

Safe Surfer is being used by more than 300,000 individuals, families and businesses worldwide. But the new Lifeguard device – developed locally at the end of last year – has beefed up protection for families even further.

“It’s a smart device which plugs straight into your existing modem to create a safe wireless hot spot within your home,” says Aaron. “You can use it to set time restrictions or determine what hours of the day your children are online. You can choose which categories are blocked 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.”

“The device also features a ‘stop/pause’ button which immediately shuts down the internet and takes all devices offline which is really handy when it’s time to do homework or go to bed.”

Rory says more than 40 different categories of material can be blocked including nudity, drugs, sexual material, violence and gambling.

“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.”

There is mounting concern worldwide about the dangers of viewing pornography from a young age. A New Zealand poll last year confirmed 82 percent of 16-18 year-olds had seen pornography and almost one third of New Zealand boys are watching porn several times a week.

More than 300 Lifeguard devices have been sold since January this year.

To find out more about Safe Surfer visit