Most of the time when we think about using “parental control” software, we’re thinking about the need to protect our children from inappropriate or unwanted online content and contacts. But plenty of adults also struggle with online behaviors: compulsive use of social media, shopping addiction, gambling addiction, chronic infidelity, porn addiction, sex addiction, etc.
The good news is that many parental control software products are as useful for adults as kids. In the space below, I have listed features that struggling adults should look for, and recommended products. Please note, these are far from the only products out there; they just happen to be the ones that I think work best for adults who are struggling with online activity.
Features to Look For
- Customizable Filtering and Blocking: Nearly all protective softwares offer some degree of filtering and blocking, usually with pre-set levels that range from settings appropriate for very young children to settings meant for adults. The better products allow you to customize this with whitelisting and blacklisting of specific sites. Without question, you want a filter/blocker that analyzes web pages in real-time, scanning for content you wish to avoid.
- Monitoring and Reporting (Accountability): Typically, you choose an accountability partner who will receive reports at regular intervals showing how much time you spent online, where you went online, what you did there, and who you interacted with. With the better products, you can set up a real-time notification if you attempt to use one of your digital devices in a prohibited way. This helps you stay accountable to your commitments.
- Time Management: This allows you to set an amount of time or certain times of day when you can (and can’t) go online.
- Location Tracking: Most of us carry our phones everywhere we go. Recognizing this, most protective software products now come with location tracking. Your spouse/partner will love this feature, as it helps him/her know where you are at all times.
- App Limits: There’s an app for everything these days, and most of them are OK for most people most of the time. But plenty of apps can be problematic. You will want a protective software that blocks access to specific apps (and entire categories of apps) that you struggle with.
- Easy to Install and Use: The best products are easy to install and easy to customize. You also want to be able to globally configure the product, meaning you enter the settings in one device and they automatically transfer to all of your devices.
- Compatibility/Licensing: Not all protective software products work on every digital device. In fact, many are quite limited. It is important to make sure the product you buy works on all of your digital 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.
Capsule Reviews of Recommended Products
There are dozens of products that can help protect you from online temptations, but they are not created equally. Based on our guidelines above, we recommend the following options for adults who struggle with online behaviors.
- 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. This is the software that I ask clients to install at Seeking Integrity: Los Angeles, my treatment center for sex addiction, porn addiction, and chemsex addiction.
- 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.
- Norton Family Premier. Norton Family Premier costs $49.99 per year for an unlimited number of devices. It offers the same basic features as other products on this list, and it is relatively easy to install and use. However, it does not work on Mac and iOS devices. So if you’re an Apple addict, this is not the right product for you.