Covenant Eyes: An App That Leverages Artificial Intelligence to Help People Break the Cycle of Porn Addiction

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Covenant Eyes: An App That Leverages Artificial Intelligence to Help People Break the Cycle of Porn Addiction

Hayley Matthews
Hayley Matthews Posted:

The Short Version: As the internet becomes more ubiquitous in daily life, a significant number of Americans struggle with an addiction to online pornography. That’s why Ron DeHaas created Covenant Eyes to help people break through the temptation of porn. Covenant Eyes is an app that encourages users to build accountability that helps stop their porn-viewing habits. Since its founding in the early 2000s, Covenant Eyes has transformed from a content-filtering tool to a platform that leverages artificial intelligence (AI) to track porn on a user’s device. Then the app sends daily updates to promote accountability.

Pornography has emerged as one of the biggest challenges in otherwise healthy relationships. Porn can make both men and women want to — or believe they have to — behave in certain ways in the bedroom. As Grant Hilary Brenner noted in Psychology Today, porn is often “dominated by hostile sexism, frequent violence, and general dehumanization and objectification.”

Pornography may hurt relationships, but it’s not going anywhere in the modern world. That’s why around 5% to 8% of adults may struggle with porn addiction — defined as watching more than 11 hours of pornography each week. Ease of access has helped those numbers grow significantly during the rise of the mobile web.

The Covenant Eyes logo

Covenant Eyes helps people end porn addiction by providing tools that empower them to break the cycle.

As porn becomes more accessible, many people wonder how they can avoid it — or break their cycle of addiction. According to Ron DeHaas, Founder of Covenant Eyes, the best way to help people stop viewing porn is by putting accountability measures in place.

That has been Ron’s mission with Covenant Eyes, an app that offers users a way to track their porn usage and get support in holding themselves accountable. He has worked on the platform for the last 20 years since he sought a solution for his own teenage children who grappled with what they saw online.

“By the year 2000, I recognized the internet’s dangers for my teenage sons, and filters weren’t enough for my purposes,” Ron said.

So he created tools to curb their access and decrease the chances of becoming addicted to porn. Two decades later, Covenant Eyes continues to help individuals, couples, and families break the grip of pornography by promoting faith and change.

An Accountability Partner is By Your Side Throughout the Process

Covenant Eyes users begin by signing up for an account and choosing an accountability partner. Often, this person is a spouse or partner, though it may also be a friend or family member. Your accountability partner will also receive regular updates about your porn usage. Then, if you’re viewing pornography, they can have a conversation that will help you get back on track.

“We call your accountability partner your ally. It is someone who cares about you. The point is to develop a relationship with someone who wants what’s best for you,” Ron says.

If users don’t choose an accountability partner, they can monitor their own pornographic activity.

“It’s a rare person who doesn’t have a temptation to look at porn on the Internet. Some people can overcome that on their own, but others can’t,” Ron told us.

Screenshot of accountability partner workflow

Accountability partners support Covenant Eyes users to help them alter bad habits.

Users and their accountability partners get mobile screen activity reports with highlighted pornographic activity or “incidents” as they’re called in the app.

For users who have severe porn addictions, Covenant Eyes also offers a pornography filter.

But, according to Ron, accountability is one of the most important factors in making progress toward any goal. For example, if you’re trying to lose weight, you should weigh yourself regularly and keep track of your progress. The same goes for stopping yourself from accessing porn. If you know that someone else will find out if you view porn, you may feel less tempted to seek it out.

“It is the best means of behavioral change. That simple measure of accountability is the most effective way to behave differently,” Ron said.

Developing AI to Monitor Illicit Images on Devices

Over the last 20 years, online content platforms have changed significantly. So, too, have Ron’s content filters. The latest version of Covenant Eyes, released in 2019, includes a sophisticated AI engine that monitors device screens.

“The AI can determine if an image on a screen is pornography. Now, we provide accountability for whatever appears on the screen,” Ron said.

At its most basic level, the AI takes intermittent screenshots of user devices. These images are blurred, however, so that the AI isn’t seeing precisely what users are viewing — pornographic or not. The AI can then determine which images are pornographic and mark them in a screen report. That report, along with those blurred screenshots, is then sent to your accountability partner.

That means that secure sites and content that may have once made it past the content filter are now identified. For example, if a user was talking to someone on a webcam, the app could see if there was pornographic material exchanged. That way, there is no way to work around the Covenant Eyes AI.

Still, Ron aims to make further modifications to the app and ensure that it’s even more accurate.

“We are still building better behavioral change techniques into the program and the reports,” he said.

Covenant Eyes can also update its usefulness quickly because of its large and responsive team. The company has 204 employees who are all committed to the mission of making porn less disruptive to people’s lives, and 65 of those employees work in customer service.

“They are dedicated to helping people struggling with pornography to overcome addictions — or never start,” Ron said.

Covenant Eyes Teaches Clients How to Build Healthier Relationships

Ron has been on a mission to make the internet a safer place for teens and adults since the early 2000s. His foresight into creating accountability tools and filters for online content has made Covenant Eyes useful for many people.

“We’ve received thousands of testimonials. Typically, they say that accountability has taken out the temptation. It’s like someone is looking over their shoulder on their device,” Ron said.

Photo of Covenant Eyes Founder Ron DeHaas

Ron DeHaas founded Covenant Eyes to encourage people to engage in healthier online behaviors with the help of their friends.

Others said that connecting with someone they trust through the app has helped them overcome their struggles, Ron said.

Ron recalled one young man who grew up with Covenant Eyes on his devices.

“He told me that he thought it wasn’t fair for his parents to have Covenant Eyes on his computer, but when he got older, he understood the benefit of not being addicted to pornography,” Ron said.

The proof that Covenant Eyes helps users overcome porn addiction isn’t just anecdotal. A few years ago, Ron employed an independent research agency to determine if there was a difference between the general population of internet users and families that had used Covenant Eyes on their devices for the last five years.

“We found that families who took the spiritual lives of their families seriously were very successful,” Ron says.

Ron stays committed to Covenant Eyes because of the real impact it has on individuals and families. He encourages parents to use digital protection software on all of their children’s devices, so they can grow up with healthier expectations for relationships and sex.

“So many teens are seeing pornography and saying, ‘This is what a successful relationship is,’” Ron said. “Parents often think they’re intruding on a kid’s liberty if they ask what they’re doing on their computers. But it’s important to teach them differently.”