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When teens want a tattoo

Author Al Wong
Submitted 04-10-2017
teen piercings

If you have a teen asking you about a piercing, more piercings, or maybe even a tattoo, you’ll be interested in the following from the New York Times. And if your kids are still tweeners and aren’t yet thinking this way, this is a good time to get ahead of the thinking on this one.

High ear piercings are now common, as are nose piercings and other body piercings. A Pew Research Center report cited in the new A.A.P. report said that in 2010, among 18- to 29-year-olds, 38 percent had at least one tattoo and 23 percent had a piercing somewhere other than the earlobe.  Source: When Adolescents Want Tattoos or Piercings – The New York Times

You can pretend this will go away or you can start to put some guidelines around the question immediately.  To start off with, most states have laws requiring parental c0nsent for piercings and tattoos. Some outlaw tattoos entirely for minors under the age of 18. You can find individual state laws at the National Conference of State Legislatures’ tattooing piercing laws page. Since this is both a legal and personal decision, you might consider the following:

  • Communicate early the importance of taking care of your body and the values of your family. Your culture may be pro-piercing which is fine, but it’s easier if kids know early what is commonly accepted.
  • Have early talks about fads and fashion so kids understand that not everything people do in any given era is what will always be in. Use the mullett, shoulder pads or Kim Jong Un’s hair as examples.
  • As you get closer to the teen years, be prepared for what your own standards are. Perhaps two piercings are fine, but not three. Or maybe three but not one in the nose. There is no right answer for what you decide or even if you change your mind, but like a lot of things, you want to avoid being surprised. You don’t want to have a dramatic reaction because it was a surprise, nor do you want to automatically say yes because you were asked at the wrong time.

The New York Times article also has a good summary of the considerations you need to discuss with kids even if you are inclined to be more liberal about piercings or tattoos. For example:

  • health risks for both tattoos and piercings
  • permanance of tattoos and the difficulty of removal (sometimes impossible)
  • fading of tattoos over time
  • tooth chipping with tongue piercings, problems with breastfeeding with nipple rings
  • obstacles to finding employment. The New York Times relays problems some actors have with tattoos that must be covered up or removed so that they can get diffrent parts.

Finally, do not despair if you are adamantly against “body modifications” to your precious baby. Tattoos and piercings have become so mainstream that even the military liberalized its rules against them in 2015. That means what was edgy and hip may soon become old-fashioned. While my 17 year old daughter is anxious to turn 18 so she can decide on a third ear-piercing or a small tattoo, my 14 year old boy thinks the whole thing is silly. He may be an indication of where the tattoo and piercing market is going.