In today’s increasingly digital world, love addiction is usually a tech-driven disorder. Love addicts search out romantic intensity on social media sites, text and video chat sites, dating sites, hookup apps and more. For love addicts, computers, tablets and smartphones are tools of the disease. In days of yore, love addicts who conducted their obsessive quest for passion and distraction online could simply put their computers away as part of their recovery, or, at the very least, they could agree to log on only when others were around to watch and intervene if necessary. And until just a few years ago these restrictions on Internet usage did not significantly impact most recovering love addicts’ work lives, social lives or ability to successfully communicate with friends, family and others.
Nowadays life is different. Digital technology has infiltrated our society to the point where living without it isn’t an option. In today’s world we go online to shop, to make travel arrangements, to book dinner reservations, to buy tickets to sporting events, to perform research for school and/or work, to get a recipe for Chicken a la King, to learn how to install ceramic tile on the wall of our shower. And we use our phones not just to make phone calls but for all of the aforementioned activities, plus texting with friends, family and pretty much everyone else we know. This is especially true with young people. In fact, a Pew Internet and American Life study conducted in 2012 found that texting is now the primary mode of communication between young people and their friends and family – far surpassing phone calls, emails and even face-to-face conversations.
So how can love addicts expect to avoid the use digital technology? To be blunt, they cannot. Nor can they expect a supportive other to watch over their shoulder 24/7 to make sure they aren’t misusing their digital devices. What love addicts can do is install filtering and monitoring software.
These products were initially developed to protect children from inappropriate online content and contacts. As such, they are often referred to as “parental control” software. That said, they work equally well for recovering love addicts (though some products are without doubt better than others). Of course, even the best parental control software can be circumvented by a determined and/or tech-savvy love addict. As such, these products should not be viewed as guarantees of love addiction sobriety; instead, they should be viewed as tools of recovery.
Typically, the parental control software toolkit is twofold: Firstly, these products can help love addicts maintain their sobriety by filtering and blocking certain Websites and apps (and even certain types of language); secondly, they can help love addicts rebuild trust with betrayed spouses and partners by monitoring and reporting to the betrayed partner (or some other accountability partner) the ways in which addicts are using (or misusing) their digital devices. At worst, circumventing protective software products takes a bit of time and effort, which gives love addicts a few moments in which they can think about what they are planning to do and the potential consequences they might experience.
Every parental control software is different, and, as mentioned above, some are better than others. Love addicts should seek out products with the following features:
- Customizable filtering and blocking: Nearly all parental control software has a variety of preset filtering levels, some appropriate for small children, some appropriate for teens, some appropriate for adults struggling with an addiction. The best products also offer blacklisting and whitelisting of specific sites and apps (meaning preset filtering/blocking levels can be customized to meet an addict’s particular needs).
- Secondary filtering and blocking features: Love addicts, in addition to automatically blocking certain Websites and apps, often need to block or limit search capabilities, social media, video games, instant messaging and more.
- Monitoring and reporting features: Love addicts nearly always have an accountability partner as part of their recovery (a therapist, a 12 step sponsor, etc.) Good software products not only filter and block potential problems, they record the ways in which love addicts are using their digital devices, and then they report this (at regular intervals, on demand and/or in real-time) to the accountability partner. Real-time alerts are especially useful. If a love addict misuses (or tries to misuse) his/her digital devices in any way, the addict’s accountability partner is notified immediately and can potentially intervene before a slip becomes a full-blown relapse.
- Compatibility and ease of use: Not all parental control software products work on every device. It is important for love addicts to purchase software that works on all of their digital devices. The product should also be easy to install and customize, with global configuration (meaning addicts can adjust their settings on one device, and those adjustments will automatically transfer to their other devices).
Annually updated reviews of parental control software products that work for sex and love addicts are published on the Sexual Recovery Institute’s Website at this link. As of now, the best products are Net Nanny, Norton Family Premiere and WebWatcher. All three are versatile and effective. Net Nanny is the least expensive.