My son has been viewing pornography
Q We bought our 17-year-old son a smartphone five months ago for his birthday. He had been pressing to get one for ages, “like all his friends”, and we finally gave in. He was out the other day and had forgotten to take his phone with him, which is unusual as it is normally welded to him. I took the opportunity to look at it. I know I shouldn’t have, but I was curious to see what he was up to on it.
Looking at his history and apps I discovered he was regularly accessing porn and adult sites. As his mother, I was a little shocked. I know that you should expect this from teenagers, but I didn’t like it at all, especially as some of the sites were vile and give a distorted view on sexuality.
I don’t know what to do. Should I raise it with him? I would feel embarrassed about this. How much of it is a problem? My husband thinks it is a case of “boys will be boys” but I am not so sure.
A Despite the clear communication and educational potential of the internet, a big side-effect has been the increased access to and usage of pornography. With the advent of smart phones, this access has increased further, meaning people can potentially be online 24 hours a day. There is evidence that teenagers are now accessing pornography at earlier ages, and more frequently, than with previous generations.
As a parent you are right to be worried about this trend. While there can be an attitude of bravado, that it is no harm and that “boys will be boys” (although girls are now also accessing similar sites), there is a genuine concern as to how this increased exposure will affect teenagers and their expectations of adult relationships.
As a society we are not sure what impact growing up in the age of the internet has, with young people spending increasing amounts of time online and with access to pornography and other explicit material always just a “click away”. Part of the problem is the potentially addictive nature both of spending time online and of viewing pornography, in particular, which can lead to some teenagers being isolated and suffering from poor self-esteem.
Given all these dangers, the question is, how can you respond to help your son? Whereas with children and younger teenagers you can adopt a strict vigilance stance and take steps such as supervising their usage, installing filtering on family PCs or restricting the internet on their phones, this is less appropriate with older teenagers who have a right to a degree of privacy and independence. In addition, it is hard to find software on PCs that block all inappropriate sites or software that a technology-savvy teenager can’t bypass if they want to.
The problem is even harder on smart phones. You can check history and supervise usage, but a teenager can easily hide what they are doing or view pornography elsewhere. With older teenagers, supervision can go only so far. What is more important is to try to talk through the issues with your teenagers and to encourage them to “self-regulate” their usage.