My son has been viewing pornography
In the long term, you want them to make informed choices about what they view on the internet and to develop their own discipline about this.
Raising this conversation with a teenager is a delicate matter and it is important to pick a good time. Probably the best thing is to raise the issue directly and in a matter-of-fact way by explaining you came across the porn on his phone and you want to discuss with him whether it is appropriate. Be prepared for the fact that he is likely to initially get embarrassed or defensive about the subject, but take time to listen to what he thinks and feels about it. Try not to be too judgmental and acknowledge that it is normal to have a curiosity about viewing sexually explicit material.
Then explain your concerns about the material (for example, how it presents a distorted view of relationships). Given his age, it can work best if you state your opinion rather than categorical rules, such as “I’d prefer you not to look at this material on the internet” or “I hope you don’t think that this is how real relationships work” or “as a woman, I find this material offensive” and so on.
Although it is a delicate conversation, it could open a useful dialogue with your son and he may even take on board some of your concerns. You can consider setting some limits on the use of his phone (by turning off the wireless at night or blocking inappropriate sites, for example) but ideally you should aim to get him on board and agree to these as part of his self-discipline.
If possible, it is best if both you and his father talk to him about the issue and this is probably best done as two separate conversations. You can present your opinion as his mother and give the perspective of a woman, and his father can present the perspective of a man and empathetically understand what he is going through as a young man. If you feel uncomfortable about the conversation you could ask his father to start the conversation with him.
While for most teenagers viewing pornography is infrequent and not a problem, for some it is excessive and may be addictive. When you talk to your son, if you get a sense that it is a more significant problem for him, do seek help from addiction services who should be able to give you more specific advice.
Dr John Sharry is a social worker and psychotherapist and director of Parents Plus charity. Questions should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org