Rating Internet Filtering and Accountability Softwares for Use by Recovering Sex Addicts
Modern-day sexual addiction is a digitally driven endeavor. A decade or so ago, it was reasonable to suggest to 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, installing “parental control software” on their digital devices.
As the parental control label suggests, these software products were initially developed to protect children from unwanted online content and contacts. However, as the products have become more sophisticated over time, they have also become more versatile, and many are now quite useful to adults who struggle with online behaviors, including sexual behaviors.
It is important to state that filtering and accountability products are not guarantees of sexual sobriety. In truth, 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).
What to Look For
When shopping for protective software, recovering sex addicts should consider the following:
- Customizable Filtering and Blocking. Nearly all of these products have preset filtering levels – ranging from levels appropriate for young children to levels appropriate for adults who wish to stay away from certain types of sites/apps. The better ones offer customizable filtering, with blacklisting of specific sites/apps that would otherwise be allowed and whitelisting of specific sites/apps that would otherwise be blocked.
- Secondary Filtering and Blocking Features. In addition to website filtering and blocking, most products offer several secondary features, including:
- Online search filtering and blocking
- App 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
Obviously, some of these features are more important to recovering sex addicts than others. Softwares that include all of these are best, though, as even video games may contain significant sexual content.
- Recording and Reporting (Accountability) Features. Ideally, protective softwares monitor the recovering sex addict’s online activity and provide the addict’s accountability partner with reports on usage, along with real-time alerts if the addict uses (or even attempts to use) his or her digital device in a prohibited way. Available recording and reporting features may include:
- Websites visited
- Online searches
- Social networking
- Usernames and passwords
- Screenshot playback
Ideally, reporting is available to accountability partners remotely (accessible via their own computer or phone) at regular intervals, on demand, and via real-time alerts.
- Ease of Use. The software should be easy to install and to customize. Ideally, users should be able to globally configure the software, establishing settings on all of the sex addict’s devices simultaneously instead of dealing with each machine individually. The best softwares offer free tech support via email, phone, and even live chat.
- Compatibility. Not all softwares work on every digital device. In fact, many are quite limited (and therefore not recommended for sex addicts, who usually have a wide array of devices on which to act out). It is important to make sure a product works on your device(s) before you purchase it. It is also important to see how many devices the license covers. Ideally, you want to cover all of your digital equipment with only one license.
Rating the Options
Below are capsule-length reviews (geared toward recovering sex addicts) of the most well-known parental control software programs. The reviews are separated into three categories – recommended, potentially effective, and not recommended – based on the program’s effectiveness as a sex addiction recovery tool. Once again, none of these products is a guarantee of sexual sobriety. Instead, they are tools of recovery that, at worst, may cause a sex addict to stop and think before circumventing the software and proceeding with a prohibited activity.
Net Nanny Net Nanny costs $39.99 per year for one computer, $12.99 per year for one cellphone, or users can pay $59.99 per year for up to five devices (computers and/or cellphones), $89.99 for up to ten devices, or $119.99 for up to fifteen devices. Net Nanny is usable on Windows, MacOS, Android, and iOS devices. Net Nanny has been at or near the top of the parental control software ratings for many years, and this year it is the clear winner. The filtering and blocking features offered by Net Nanny are versatile and effective, as are the recording and reporting features. In 2014 there was no screenshot playback, but that shortcoming has been rectified. Right now, Net Nanny offers everything a recovering sex addict might want. Additionally, Net Nanny is relatively easy to install and configure, it is usable on almost any device, and it’s priced right.
Other Potentially Effective Products
CovenantEyes. CovenantEyes offers individual filtering and accountability (two separate programs) for a total of $11.49 per month ($137.88 per year) for one device or $13.99 per month ($167.88 per year) for the entire family. CovenantEyes is useable on Windows, MacOS, iOS and Android devices, though Android devices do not have access to the full range of features. The primary drawback with CovenantEyes is that users pay monthly, which can get expensive over time.
McAfee Family Protection. McAfee Family Protection costs $49.99 per year for up to three computers, with free downloads for cellphone protection. For $99.99 per year users can protect the entire family. McAfee Family Protection is usable on Windows, MacOS, Android and iOS devices. For the most part, McAfee is best known for providing anti-virus products. However, their Family Protection product offers above average filtering and blocking, along with acceptable recording and reporting. There is no email filtering, which may be problematic for some sex addicts, and neither online nor email reports are available to accountability partners, which may also be problematic.
Norton Family Premiere. Norton Family Premiere costs $49.99 per year for each device. It is usable on Windows, Android, and iOS devices, but not on MacOS computers. Like McAfee, Norton is best known for providing anti-virus products. That said, Norton Family Premiere offers solid filtering and blocking, coupled with solid recording and reporting. Ease of installation is good. The downsides with Norton Family Premiere are it is not usable on Mac OS computers, and at $49.99 per device it can get expensive.
PureSight Multi. PureSight Multi costs $39.90 per year for up to three devices, $49.90 per year for up to five devices, or $59.90 per year for up to ten devices. PureSight Multi is usable on Windows based computers and Android devices, but not on MacOS computers and iOS devices. The filtering and blocking features are average, as are the recording and accountability features. For sex addicts who are Windows/Android users, PureSight is a viable (and affordable) option. However, sex addicts who prefer Mac devices will need to use another product.
WebWatcher. WebWatcher costs $99.95 per year for each device. It is usable on Windows, MacOS, Android and iOS devices. Not all features are available for cellphones (Android and iOS devices). The filtering and blocking features are versatile and effective, as are the recording and reporting features. Some users complain that installing the product and establishing customized settings is more difficult than it should be. The real issue with WebWatcher, as far as sex addicts are concerned, is that it is not effective against proxy servers, which means that tech-savvy sex addicts can easily work around it. Plus, it’s expensive.
Not Recommended for Use by Recovering Sex Addicts
CyberPatrol. CyberPatrol costs $39.95 per year for up to three computers, $59.95 per year for use on up to four computers, and $74.95 per year for use on up to five computers. Cyberpatrol is usable on Windows based computers, but not MacOS computers, Android devices or iOS devices. The filtering and blocking features are fine, as are the recording and reporting features. However, it is not usable on anything other than Windows based computers, and because of that it is not a good option for recovering sex addicts.
CYBERsitter. CYBERsitter costs $39.95 per year for up to three devices, or $49.95 per year for up to five devices. It is usable on Windows based computers and (possibly) on MacOS computers, but not on Android or iOS devices. The filtering and blocking features are good, as are the recording and reporting features. What keeps this product off of the recommended list is that it is not usable on cellphones, and that can be a problem for recovering sex addicts.
Intego Family Protector. Intego Family Protector costs $39.99 per year for one computer, or $79.99 per year for three computers. It is usable on MacOS computers, but not Windows-based computers, Android devices, or iOS devices. Intego Family Protector offers good filtering and blocking features, and good recording and accountability features. However, it is only available for MacOS computers. You can’t use it on your PC, nor can you use it on a smartphone. As such, this is not a good product for recovering sex addicts.
KidsWatch Professional. KidsWatch costs $49.95 for up to three computers. It is usable on Windows based computers, but not on MacOS computers, Android devices or iOS devices. Kidswatch offers good filtering and blocking features and solid monitoring and reporting features. However, it does not work with Firefox or Safari browsers, nor is it usable on anything other than Windows based computers. As such, it is not a good product for recovering sex addicts.
PC Pandora Pro. PC Pandora Pro costs $69.95 for up to two computers, or $99.95 for up to four computers. It is usable on Windows based computers, but not MacOS computers, Android devices or iOS devices. The filtering and blocking features are average, with above average recording and reporting features. However, the fact that it can’t be used on MacOS computers or cellphones is a major drawback, and because of this the product is not recommended for use by recovering sex addicts.
SentryPC. SentryPC costs $59.95 per year for one computer, with additional licenses costing $19.95 per year for each computer. SentryPC is usable on Windows based computers but not on MacOS computers, Android devices or iOS devices. The filtering and blocking features are adequate, as are the recording and accountability features. The problem here is lack of compatibility with Mac and mobile devices, which is problematic for recovering sex addicts.
Spector Pro. Spector Pro costs $99.95 per year per computer. It is usable on Windows and MacOS computers, but not on Android or iOS devices. Spector Pro offers slightly below average filtering and blocking features, along with excellent recording and accountability. In truth, this product is designed for businesses that wish to monitor employees’ use of their computers. Because it is not usable on cellphones, and because the filtering features are not great, this product is not recommended for recovering sex addicts. Plus, it’s very expensive.
SpyTech SpyAgent. SpyAgent costs $69.95 per year for one computer, $89.95 per year for three computers, with various pricing available for more than three computers. SpyAgent is usable on Windows based computers but not on MacOS computers, Android devices or iOS devices. SpyAgent offers slightly below average filtering and blocking features, coupled with above average recording and accountability. Like Spector Pro, SpyAgent is designed more for monitoring than filtering. Because of this, along with the fact that it is not usable on MacOS, Android or iOS devices, it is not recommended for use by recovering sex addicts.