Pornography: Why Internet Accountability Software Doesn't Work

I recently heard one man say, "If you don't have accountability software on every internet-accessible device, you're a fool." His comment was in the context of how pornography, particularly one's usage of it, is ravaging the church. Men and women, boys and girls, at home and at work, in hotels and while in public, view sexually explicit material. With the exception of the shame it brings some, pornographic material is steadily becoming normalized.

Much has been written on the topic. People have attempted to provide gospel-saturated material for those viewing pornography so that they might finally be free. Others have suggested accountability groups, such as Celebrate Recovery. But one consistency, in my observation, between all methods of freeing oneself from pornographic addiction is, internet accountability software.

There are many programs from which to choose. Some are more helpful than others depending on the computer one uses (e.g., Mac versus PC). Most, if not all, of the software sends a report of potential pornographic material viewed to the designated persons of one's choosing. I know of pastoral staff who keep each other accountable by having the reports sent to all within the pastoral staff. Laypersons have also created accountability groups, and their internet reports are sent to each other.

I have no problem with internet accountability software. If utilized properly, it can be a useful tool. My problem is with the people who use it. In many of these software programs, there is a way to sidestep the monitoring process such that when the reports are issued, it does not tattle on the person who viewed pornography. Should we blame the creators of the software? Perhaps. More importantly, we should focus on the one manipulating the system to watch sexually explicit material.

This is one of the reasons internet accountability software does not work. The cravings that men, women, and children have toward viewing pornography causes them to seek ways to overcome the system so that their cravings are satisfied. Essentially what has occurred is that internet accountability software has produced an outward display of repentance (i.e., I can be on my best behavior because I have accountability software) but the heart has never been changed. The heart still desperately yearns for viewing that material and it will do what it takes to satiate its desires. Repentance, therefore, is needed, but it must take place both outwardly and inwardly.

According to the Westminster Shorter Catechism 87, "Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavor after, new obedience." The catechism links both inward and outward actions. A true sense of one's sins, grief and hatred toward it, and an apprehension of God's mercy in Christ are primarily inward actions. Yet, those inward actions leading to repentance are inextricably linked to outward displays of repentance (e.g., "...with full purpose of, and endeavor after, new obedience").

Repentance toward pornography needs to occur at both the inward and outward levels. Slapping accountability software on one's internet-accessible devices will only help for so long if one's heart is not changed. It is like the mother who continues to tell her son, "Stop hitting your sister," yet wonders why he continues to do it. She is focusing on the outward action without looking at the issues of the heart that are causing the problem.

Internet accountability software can work, but those using it must be saturated in the love of Christ and repentant both outwardly and inwardly. This does not mean one's struggles will cease permanently, but it does produce a greater possibility that she will never look at pornography again. Beloved, in Christ, it is possible to break the cycle.