“I told myself I could control it, but I knew I couldn’t. I told other people when I talked to them about it, like parents, ‘no I’m fine, I can get off of it.’ But I think that’s such a lie for so many people, because it really is an addiction.”

Bray Hallman is taking a stand against pornography. The 20-year-old from Utah says he became addicted to pornography at a young age and it all started from his smartphone.

“I’ve had this addiction since I was 12-years-old and social media just feeds it so, so, so much more.”

Bray, the oldest of four kids in his family, has now been “sober” for several months. Because of his new found freedom, he and his youngest brother recently posted a video to Facebook about his addiction that has gone viral. The two encourage kids everywhere to delete Snapchat, as part of a social change campaign, National Delete Snapchat Day, initiated by his friend Collin Kartchner, a social media influencer and youth advocate.

“With Snapchat, you can literally click on half those articles and they will sneak it in there as much as they can so that it’s not called pornography. But really, to a young kid it’s still going to cause an effect in their brain.”

Bray’s journey

He said it all started with becoming curious.

“I mean you can go look up porn or something like that on Safari, but the first thing these kids are going to do is get curious from a social media post.”

The addiction became more real over time, and even though Bray denied it, he said his parents were aware. They would ask him about his problem or try and put restrictions on his phone, but he responded like any addicted teen might.

“I was so deep into it that I was really angry about it,” Bray said. “The things they put on my phone, I could get around them, anyone can get around some of those. And when you have an addiction like that, you will go above and beyond to really find what you’re looking for.”

We’ll get back to parenting the addict later, but Bray said it wasn’t until he returned from a two year mission service for his church that he made a conscious decision to change his life and change his habits.

Change your habits

“Everything was kind of going downhill for me with the pornography, so I decided to delete Instagram and Snapchat.”

Bray started with getting rid of the negative influences in his life and changing his personal smartphone habits to kick the pornography addiction.

“Smartphones are out there, we’re in a digital world,” Bray says, “but we can get away from that as much as possible, by putting restrictions on your phone, until you are able to control yourself.”

In just a few short years, Bray did a complete 180 on his ideas about monitoring his own smartphone habits. He realized his parents were just trying to help when he was younger. This includes how he now uses his phone at night.

“I feel like nighttime is the most dangerous time to be a teenager, especially with a phone.”

He says he plugs his phone in somewhere other than his bedroom every night.

“Either in my parents room or in my kitchen. Just somewhere where I’m not on it, because I feel like [nighttime] is when you’re the most idol and you’re most vulnerable to see that stuff.”

Finally, he says, move past the digital world and get in the real world.

“Surround yourself with people, never be alone. I’ve tried hanging out with more people.”

That social and face-to-face interaction helps Bray from being bored and isolated, giving him reason to create and improve real relationships, instead of seeking only digital companionship.

To Teens

When this campaign to delete Snapchat started, Bray knew he could share his experience to help other kids struggling with a pornography addiction. He says opening up is the hardest part, but the key to getting started.

“It’s a super sensitive subject and it’s super awkward to talk about it with parents or leaders,” Bray says, “but I think if you really just reach out and say, ‘I’m struggling with this’ or ‘I came across this,’ there’s people who have dealt with [pornography] and they can definitely help you.”

He says teens and parents alike need to remember that the digital world is an unknown and, sometimes, dangerous place, so we need each other to learn how to control it.

“Parents have given their kids a phone and it’s like a snake. You are literally giving them a rattlesnake and it’s going to bite them.”

To Parents

Remember how Bray said he got “super angry” about the restrictions his parents put on his phone? Bray says you will encounter that, sometimes, no matter what, but parents can start before the problems happen and avoid the “angry, frustrated teen” scenario from the beginning. Even when parents think their kids are “good kids” and “don’t have a problem”, he says they still need guidelines, rules and restrictions.

“If I hadn’t started looking at [pornography] on my smartphone and I got rules right off the bat, parents saying, ‘we’re putting these on, we’re going to monitor stuff,’ I think it would have been so much better if that had happened before I came across it for the first time.”

But if and when there is a problem, Bray says parents have to be brave and sympathetic to reach their teens.

“Reach out to them, don’t be nervous, just be honest with each other, especially if [the parents] had a problem growing up, that’s huge. Just talk about it.”

Don’t know how to start the conversation? Bray puts the words right in your mouth:

“Parents should say ‘Hey, we are here for you. We’re not going to get mad. You know what, there are problems in this world. You are going to come across this problem and we are not going to be mad if you struggle with this. We want to help you, we are here for you.’”

Watch Bray’s video on Facebook here and read more about the National Delete Snapchat day that is encouraging hundreds of teens to evaluate their social media use. To keep a pulse on the social changes and latest research in the digital parenting world, join the newest group, Digital Parents by WebSafety on Facebook.