Tattoos For Teens

January 8, 2019 by: Joseph A. Girone, MD

If your teenager hasn’t mentioned it yet, it may be coming. Tattooing has found a significant place among adolescents. In an early study, 10 percent of high school students had tattoos and 55 percent expressed interest. A Harris Poll revealed that 22 percent of 18-24-year-olds have a tattoo. This is similar to college studies that report 23% of students with tattoos.

There are several areas of information for parents when discussing tattooing with adolescent children. Parents who have tattoos will have a different perspective than those without. Parents without tattoos may want to become familiar with the information the parents with tattoos have already absorbed. 

Parents need to know the state laws that regulate tattooing where the procedure will be done. At least 45 states have laws restricting minors from getting tattoos, 17 with outright prohibition and 28 requiring parental consent. Twelve states require the parent to be present when the tattoo procedure is done. Most states consider minors younger than 18 years of age. 

Families living in states where tattoos of minors are prohibited will have to travel to a less restrictive state. The cost of tattoos will vary on the quality of the parlor, skill of the artist, size and complexity of the artwork, and possibly travel. Videos are available on YouTube and other internet sites for viewers to learn about safe and acceptable methods of tattoo placement. 

The adolescent has to understand completely the permanence of a tattoo. They may hear that the tattoo can be removed, but need to know the expense of removal. It is estimated that a four-inch-by-four-inch tattoo can cost up to $5,800 for removal, which may not be complete. The “body art” selection should be carefully chosen, as should the location. Visible tattoos could be a negative consideration later in life, especially in some career choices.

A child may consider a temporary tattoo. This compromise can help the child to gain insight into the permanence of a tattoo as well as its message, appearance, and location. The child could be better prepared to make the decision for a permanent tattoo.

The permanent tattoo procedure must be done properly. A licensed, sanitary facility and an up-to-date tetanus immunization are essential. A child who has had problems with scarring in the past should consider that possibility.

The rate of complications from tattoo placement is not known. With the large number of tattoos placed, one can assume it is low. Infections are a potentially serious complication. Infections can be minimized with sanitary and hygienic practices at licensed parlors. The adolescent should seek medical care if there are signs and symptoms of infection. Less likely complications are hepatitis B and C transmission. Difficulty monitoring malignant transformation of nevi and melanoma is a possibility. 

Parents who do not have tattoos need to ponder the request of a young person for a tattoo before making a decision. The adolescents that get “absolutely not” as a response know that they only have to wait until they reach their majority in that state and then they can get a tattoo. “Maybe, let’s think about it,” could be an acceptable answer to their request. Getting more information and the child identifying a problem they hadn’t thought of could result in a much better relationship with the parent in place of an oppositional one. 

Parents of tweens and adolescents should anticipate the discussion of tattoos. This situation will go much better when the parent has considered the information and formulated a strategy to put into place when the tattoo talk happens. The reality of the permanence of the tattoo necessitates parental awareness and serious guidance.

Article Reference:

Joseph A. Girone, MD, is a retired developmental pediatrician.

Joseph A. Girone

Joseph A. Girone, MD

Joseph A. Girone, MD, is a retired developmental pediatrician.