Can “Parental Control” Software Help Recovering Porn Addicts?

The Internet is chock full of porn, and recovering porn addicts must deal with that one way or another. Of course, in the early days of Internet-driven porn addiction, starting in the mid-1990s, addicts were advised to simply get rid of their computer and/or their Internet access, or to only use the Internet when and where another person could see what they were up to. Usually this was enough to keep porn addicts from abusing digital pornography – so long as they didn’t sneak online in secret.

However, times have changed. The world has become increasingly digital in the 21st century. People now use computers and other forms of digital technology for just about everything – shopping, deciding where to eat, communicating with loved ones and others (texts, emails), conducting research for school and/or work, engaging in political activism, socializing (social media, Webcam chats) and more. Put simply, abstaining from digital technology is no longer an option for porn addicts (or anyone else), nor is using digital technology only if/when others can see what you’re doing. This is especially true given the ever-increasing portability of laptops, tablets and smartphones.

Can "Parental Control" Software Help Recovering Porn Addicts?Fortunately, there are software programs that can help recovering porn addicts maintain their sexual sobriety. These products were initially developed to protect children from inappropriate and/or unwanted information and contacts online. However, they can be easily adapted for use by adults. These “parental control” programs typically offer varying degrees of Internet filtering/blocking and monitoring/reporting. This means that recovering porn addicts can implement digital safeguards to protect their sobriety – denying access to problematic websites and apps, and notifying an “accountability partner” if/when the addict accesses or attempts to access such material.

Each of these products differs in important ways, and for recovering porn addicts certain features are more important than others. Before purchasing and installing one of these products, recovering porn addicts should consider the following:

  • Ability to Customize the Filtering/Blocking – Most products offer several preset filtering/blocking levels with settings appropriate for young children, older children, teens and adults who wish to stay away from certain Websites and apps. The best products offer customizable levels, with whitelisting (allowing certain sites/apps that might otherwise be blocked by the preset) and blacklisting (blocking certain sites/apps that might otherwise be allowed by the preset). In this way, recovering porn addicts can still access a useful recovery-oriented site like YourBrainOnPorn.com, which talks about the negative effects of porn use and how to recover from those effects, even though this site would likely be blocked by many software presets (because it openly discusses porn and occasionally uses graphic language).
  • Additional Filtering/Blocking Features – Porn addicts don’t just need to block porn sites, they also need to block apps that facilitate access to pornography. They may also need to block social media access (because so many people post erotic imagery), file transfers, instant messaging and other forms of chat, texting (and therefore sexting), Webcam usage and maybe even video games – after all, the latest version of “Grand Theft Auto,” one of the world’s most popular video games, includes graphic depictions of sex with prostitutes.
  • Monitoring/Reporting – It’s no secret that recovering porn addicts (and recovering addicts in general) have a much easier time maintaining sobriety when they have social support, including an “accountability partner.” Knowing this, recovering porn addicts should opt for software that, in addition to filtering/blocking problematic access, tracks use (and attempted use) of problem sites/apps and reports this, preferably in real-time, to a third-party – perhaps the porn addict’s therapist or 12-step sexual recovery sponsor – who can hopefully intervene before a full-blown relapse occurs.
  • Compatibility and Ease of Use – Not every product works on every device. In fact, many softwares are limited to either Windows-based or Mac-based operating systems. And a few are not yet designed for use with smartphones. For recovering porn addicts, it is best to find a product that covers all of their devices, preferably with the purchase of only one software license. The product should also be easy to install and customize, with global configuration (meaning the addict can establish protective settings on one device, with those settings automatically extending to his/her other devices).

At the time of this writing, the best protective software products for recovering porn addicts are:

  • Net Nanny, available for use on Windows, Android, MacOS and iOS devices, $39.99.
  • Norton Family Premiere, available for use on Windows, Android, MacOS and iOS devices, $49.99
  • WebWatcher, available on Windows, Android and MacOS (but not iOS) devices, $99.95

For fuller, annually updated reviews of these and other parental control software products, please visit this link on the Sexual Recovery Institute’s website.

It is important to state very clearly that even the best of these softwares is not a guarantee of sexual sobriety. A tech-savvy porn addict – and what modern-day porn addict is not tech-savvy? – can nearly always circumvent these products with enough effort. And even if an addict can’t work around the protective software in some way, he or she can simply purchase and use a new device in secret, accessing pornography that way. Nevertheless, the effort involved in sidestepping a protective software takes time, and this alone provides recovering porn addicts with an opportunity to pause and reflect, and hopefully to implement a healthy coping mechanism rather than proceeding with porn use. Either way, these products should not be thought of as enforcers of sobriety. Rather, they are tools of recovery that can help a porn addict maintain his or her sobriety (via filtering/blocking features) and rebuild trust with loved ones (via monitoring/reporting features).

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