Can ‘Parental Control’ Software Help Recovering Sex and Porn Addicts?

At both Sex and Relationship Healing and Seeking Integrity, we get asked relatively often if we recommend installing ‘parental control’ software on the digital devices of adult sex and porn addicts. The answer is yes, we do, In fact, at Seeking Integrity: Los Angeles, our treatment center for sex, porn, and drug addiction, one of the first things we ask clients to do is install Net Nanny on their phones, tablets, laptops, and any other digital devices they own.

At the same time, we explain that this program and similar products are not enforcers of recovery. What they are is a roadblock between being triggered and actually acting out, and a tool that helps recovering addicts stay accountable to others for their behavior. We understand that tech-savvy addicts can work around even the best of these products, and not-so-tech-savvy addicts can simply buy a new digital device and use it in secret. So, again, parental control software products are a tool to aid recovery rather than a guarantee of sobriety.

If you are shopping for a product to protect yourself or a loved one from online temptations, there are several must-have features.

  1. Filtering/Blocking: Your product should offer at least one default setting appropriate for adults who struggle with online behaviors. You should also look for the ability to whitelist and blacklist specific sites. Additionally, you want the software to analyze web pages in real time, scanning each page for inappropriate language and imagery. This prevents addicts from ‘stumbling across’ content they’re hoping to avoid.
  2. Monitoring and Reporting (Accountability): Generally, recovering addicts have an accountability partner who gets reports at regular intervals showing how much time the addict spent online, where the addict went online, and who the addict interacted with. Good products also provide real-time alerts if the addict tries to use a digital device in a non-sober way. Some products will also monitor and report on all texts, downloads, uploads, search engine requests, instant messages, apps, usernames and passwords, etc.
  3. Time Management: This lets you set an amount of time or certain times of day when the addict can (and can’t) go online. With the better products, this is customizable by categories.
  4. Location Tracking: Addicts tend to carry their phones with them everywhere they go. Recognizing this, most parental control software products now come with location tracking. Betrayed partners love this feature, as it helps them know where the addict is at all times.
  5. App Limits: There’s an app for everything these days, and most are fine for recovering sex and porn addicts. But plenty of apps can be problematic. Addicts need a protective software that, at the very least, will block access to apps they use as part of their addiction.
  6. Easy to Install and Use: The best products are easy to install, easy to customize, and easy to modify as boundaries for sexual sobriety change. You also want to be able to globally configure the software, meaning you put your settings in one device and they automatically transfer to your other devices. You should also look for free 24/7 tech support via phone, email, or live chat.
  7. Compatibility/Licensing: Not all protective software products work on every digital device. In fact, many are quite limited (and therefore not recommended, as sex and porn addicts usually have a wide array of devices). It is important to make sure the product you buy works on all of the addict’s devices. It is also important to see how many devices the license covers. Ideally, you want to cover all of your equipment with only one license.

From our perspective, the best products for recovering sex and porn addicts are:

  • Net Nanny. Net Nanny Family Protection Pack costs $54.99 per year for up to five devices, and $89.99 per year for up to twenty devices. The software is usable on Windows, Android, Mac, iOS, and Kindle devices. Net Nanny offers all the features recovering addicts should look for, and it is easily customizable.
  • Qustodio Parental Control. Qustodio costs $54.95 per year for up to five devices, $96.95 per year for up to ten devices, and $137.95 per year for up to fifteen devices. The software is usable on Windows, Android, Mac, iOS, and Kindle devices. Like Net Nanny, Qustodio offers all the features you should look for. It is also easy to use.
  • WebWatcher. WebWatcher is another very good program, generally on par with Net Nanny and Qustodio except is really expensive at $99.95 per year for each digital device. WebWatcher is usable on Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, and Chromebook devices.

Once again, we want to emphasize the fact that these products are useful tools of recovery but they are not enforcers or guarantees of sobriety. If addicts truly want to act out, they’ll find a way to do it. But if they’ve got a good parental control software on their digital devices, this will at least slow them down, giving them a chance to clear their mind, burst the bubble of their addiction, and reach out for help.