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A decade or so ago, it was reasonable to suggest to recovering sex addicts that they either stay away from computers altogether or use them only in very limited circumstances. But that was then, and this is now. In today’s world, digital technology is an increasingly essential part of healthy human interaction and connection, and the vast majority of recovering sex addicts can’t simply abstain or even significantly limit their use of it. The good news is that sex addicts can now fight fire with fire by installing “parental control software” on their digital devices.

As the parental control label suggests, these products were initially developed to protect children from unwanted online content and contacts. However, as the products have become more sophisticated, they have also become more versatile, and many are now quite useful to adults who struggle with online behaviors, including sexual behaviors.

Generally speaking, parental control software products offer a combination of filtering/blocking and monitoring/accountability. The filtering portions of these programs offer variations of the following:

  • Customizable website filtering and blocking
  • Online search filtering and blocking
  • App filtering and blocking
  • Social media blocking
  • Instant message/chat blocking
  • File transfer blocking (preventing the sending and/or receiving of pictures, videos, and the like)
  • Video game filtering
  • Profanity blocking

The accountability features of these products typically include variations of the following:

  • Regular and on-demand reports (for the addict’s accountability partner)
  • Real-time alerts if the addict uses or attempts to use a digital device in a prohibited way
  • Log of websites visited
  • Log of online searches
  • Log of social networking sites utilized
  • Log of usernames and passwords
  • Log and/or transcript of IM and chat activity
  • Log and/or transcript of email activity
  • Screenshot playbacks

It is important to state that filtering and accountability products are not guarantees of sexual sobriety and recovery. A persistent and/or tech-savvy sex addict can nearly always find ways to circumvent even the best of these products. And if an addict is stumped by the software, he or she can just go out and buy a new digital device and then use it in secret. As such, filtering and accountability products should not be viewed as enforcers of recovery; instead, they should be looked at as a tool of recovery that can help sex addicts maintain sobriety by reducing impulsive online behavior (through the filtering and blocking features) and rebuild trust (through the accountability and reporting features). Unsurprisingly, some of these products are better than others; annually updated reviews can be found at this link.