Suffolk dad builds app to keep children safe online

The CAP Certified team at Innovation Labs in Stowmarket.

The CAP Certified team at Innovation Labs in Stowmarket. L to R: Liz Wilkins, chief marketing officer; Shemal Rajapakse, chief executive; Brian Bush, Head of Business Development - Credit: CAP CERTIFIED

A Suffolk dad has designed an app to keep young people safe online after realising he could not find anything to protect his own children.

When Shemal Rajapakse’s five-year-old asked to play the video game Fortnite with his friends from school, Mr Rajapakse said no as it was rated as only being appropriate for children over 12.

But after finding out that many of his child’s friends had created fake accounts and were playing it regardless Mr Rajapakse set out about searching out ways to keep his children safe online.

“I’d heard of parental controls,” he said. “But I realised they were actually really inadequate, because they don’t actually protect children from outsiders like groomers or predators — they only block inappropriate content.

“I’d found a gap in the market and thought okay, if there’s nothing else available I’ll try to find a solution myself.

“So I went back to my son and promised him I’ll make it safe for him to play.”

Now, two years on, Stowmarket-based Mr Rajapakse has launched CAP Certified — an app which uses schools to verify that children online are actually chidren.

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The app, he explained, is the first online safety tech solution that authenticates a child as a child, and then protects them online by allowing parents to choose who they connect with on digital platforms.

It works in a similar way to the Twitter’s system of having verified accounts who are who they say they are.

“We can actually verify child users to say this is a real child’s account,” Mr Rajapakse said. “With that information the platform can create a walled garden for these verified children.

“With parent’s preferences the platform can make sure that children only associate with other verified or authenticated children.”

The app interacts with social media such as Facebook — allowing parents to monitor friend requests and who children are chatting to online.

“The parents can see who their children interact with — with the child’s consent — but they can’t see what the child is doing in terms of what videos they’re looking at or what they’re chatting about — so the child’s privacy is protected as well,” he said.

CAP Certified also works in partnership with The Breck Foundation — which was created after 14-year-old Breck Bednar was murdered by a predator he had met online.

“We want to educate children,” Mr Rajapakse said. “Technology alone will not work. Education alone will not work. So they both have to work together.”