Tattoos and body-piercings can be a way for young people to express their identity. Young people get tattoos and body-piercings for lots of reasons, including:
• because they want to be like their peers
• as an expression of identity and individuality
• as a fashion statement
• because they want to rebel against their parents’ values
• as part of a traditional rite of passage for their cultural group.
You will see lots of people, young and old, with tattoos and body-piercings, so if your child is interested in getting a tattoo or piercing, it is a good idea to talk about it with your child. This can help him understand the risks and make a responsible decision.
Getting a tattoo or body-piercing does come with some risks. These include:
• allergic reactions
• eczema flare-ups
• serious infectious diseases like hepatitis C and HIV
• thick scars called keloids (these are more common among people with darker skin)
• gum disease or damage to teeth from mouth piercings.
If your child wants to get a tattoo or a body-piercing, talking about it with him is a good first step. It is OK for you to let your child know how you feel about the tattoo or body-piercing. You might feel fine about it, you might really hate the idea, or your feelings might be somewhere in between.
It is worth being careful about banning tattoos or body-piercings completely because this might result in your child getting one anyway without taking the proper safety precautions. Your child has to know that it is a bad idea of getting a tattoo at 16 because he might decide he does not like it in five years time, but then it will be difficult and cost a lot of money to get rid of it.
You and your child might find it helpful to talk to someone who has a tattoo or a body-piercing to get a different view. You could ask how the person felt about the tattoo or body-piercing at first and how the person feels about it now. You could also ask whether it has had negative consequences or whether the person would do things differently now.
There are some other things that are worth talking about with your child if he wants a tattoo or body-piercing. These are:
• caring for the tattoo or piercing in the first weeks or months, while it heals
• getting a tattoo removed in the future; pain, cost, and difficulty
• getting a job; how a facial tattoo or piercing might affect your child’s job prospects
• feeling regret in the future if the tattoo is of a boyfriend’s or girlfriend’s name.
People with certain conditions, or on some medications, should avoid tattoos or body-piercings because they have a higher risk of infection or complications.
If you agree to your child getting a tattoo or body-piercing, or if he’s going to get one no matter what you say, protecting his health and safety is really important.