Today, a good friend of mine asked me: “What’s the key to happiness?” I think that more than any other factor, the key to my own glasshappiness is guarding my eyes: preventing myself from looking at things I shouldn’t be looking at both online, on t.v. and in the world at large.

I grew up in a good, stable family where my parents were always respectful to one another and I was treated extremely well. But there were components that now,years later, I realize were sorely missing from my home. Not to say that my parents aren’t completely righteous people. They are. But they probably realize as well as I do, that in retrospect, especially with the entire world at the qualms of the Internet, things could have been done differently.

So many of today’s youths face a bleak reality. But this reality can become much brighter if their parents enforce restrictions on T.V. and Internet usage. I didn’t have any restraints growing up. Maybe that’s because I’m the only child and my parents wanted to provide me with opportunities that they, themselves, never dreamed of. Maybe it’s because I never allowed anyone to place restraints on me. I was too much of a free spirit; a kid getting into loads of trouble from day #1. But it could have been better and guarding my eyes would have provided me with the instruments I sorely lacked.

What does “guarding your eyes” mean? Perhaps I should have started with this. It means two things:

1. Not accessing inappropriate sites online and not watching questionable material on t.v.

2. Being able to restrict not what we “see” (because it’s impossible not to completely avoid looking at a pretty woman) but what we “look” at. There’s a difference between “seeing” something that appeals to the senses and staring at the object of our so-called “affection.”

Let’s focus on the more important of the two: avoiding inappropriate material on t.v. and online.

This is crucial if we’re to experience true happiness and get the most out of life. For a human male, this is a seeming impossibility. Even if one understands that guarding the covenant lies at the very core of Judaism and that it helps him realize his potential in life, he still feels an overwhelming urge to sin every chance he gets.

That’s where Internet and T.V. filters come in. Here’s a list of some of the most useful filters that I’ve used thus far:

1. Guard Your Eyes: This is an excellent tool for reaching your goals. It pairs you up with a partner who monitors the sites you visit and allows him to keep you accountable. There’s also a twin service that sends you daily emails featuring other members’ success stories and tips for overcoming your urges. Highly recommended!

2. Covenant Eyes: According to the site description, it: “tracks websites you visit on your computers, smart phones, and tablets, and sends them in an easy-to-read report to someone you trust. This makes it easy to talk about the temptations you face online.”

3. K9 Web Protection: this is the service I use. You–or a partner–get to choose the categories you want to avoid. If you try to access a site that fits into one of these categories, the filter blocks you from doing so. I find this most effective because not only is it completely free, but it restricts you to such a degree that no matter how strong your urge, you simply can’t access the questionable site. After a certain amount of time (according to the “Guard Your Eyes” “sobriety” program, it takes at least 72 days to “re-program” yourself into not having a strong urge for porn), you simply get over it.

What are all these filtering services trying to do? What’s the “bottom line?” I believe it doesn’t necessarily have to do with Judaism–but rather with the basic principle (which just happens to be a trademark of Hassidism) of overcoming one’s physicality and living a life of spirituality. The bottom line is that every one of us wants to be productive; wants to be happy. It’s about ways of achieving that happiness without necessarily being rich, having an “easy” life, or even being married.

Please take this opportunity (IT’LL TAKE YOU EXACTLY 5 MINUTES BUT THE RESULTS WILL LAST A LIFETIME) to sign up for one of the filters mentioned above. If you don’t think these are for you, do a Google search and find a different one but by all means, don’t fall into the dark pit that the technological advances of our era have dug for us. Use these advances for the good; sanctify them–not the other way around!

And remember: we’ll all prone to failure. It’s so very important (Rebbi Nachman stresses this) to get back up as soon as we fall (G-d forbid).