unicorn_tattoos_2A A friend recently posted a status on Facebook saying her four-year-old asked to get a tattoo for her birthday — and “not one that washes off in the bathtub.” Of course, the idea of a four-year-old getting a REAL tattoo is ludicrous (and probably illegal), but it had me wondering — what if that four-year-old was sixteen? Would it be ok then?

I have three tattoos, and I love them all. BUT, and it’s a big but, I didn’t get any of them until last year, when I was twenty-five. While I flirted with the idea for several years leading up to it, I never felt totally committed to having ink in my body forever until I felt it was something worth embedding. The tattoos I have now all mean something to me, something incredibly important — I shudder to think what I would have gotten tattooed on me when I was sixteen.

This aside, the question still stands: would you let your teen get a tattoo? Why or why not?

Comments on Would you let your teen get a tattoo?

  1. With what I have said I do have to say my son and I do have conversations about everything. When he asks I will talk to him about it. Heck he is 5 and will ask me about everything there is to know about life. I am the kind of momma that doesn’t even flinch when he asks where do babies come from. But right now I am hoping Henna tattoos will keep he satisfied in the future. It costs almost as much as a tattoo if you go through a professional. Minimum 200… oi! Thank goodness for a very talented artsy aunt and non-perminant dye. We will be talking about diseases due to sharing needles and that will come into play with homemade tattoo kits. And we will talk about the shops as well. I have had my belly pierced with my mother (she dared me). But I was 20 years old. At 19 I really wanted a tattoo but over the years never had the money. Now at 29 I am just too lazy to do it. And I am finding it isn’t as important to me as it was when I was 19.

  2. I was an extremely level-headed and mature 16 year old, and I still cringe at what I might have chosen for a tattoo at that age (I’m 24 and still have none). So, hell no. Plus, I can’t count on my kid being as mature at that age, they might be like my friend and get a Red Hot Chili Peppers tat, because, omg, they’re like so brilliant and it like means so much to me!

  3. Absolutely, my boys can have a tattoo. But the same rules apply to them as I put on myself before I got my first one. You have to have the same design and location for at least one year, with NO changes at all, before you get it inked. If you can’t go a year without changing it, it’s not time to get it done permanently.

  4. Doubtful. I got 3 stupid (and large) tattoos from ages 18-22. I hate them all. Everything I got after 24, I love. it’s amazing how much a persons ideals, likes and dislikes can change in the early 20s. My mom was and still is very anti tattoo, and I think that if she had ever opened a dialogue with me, I might have held off instead of getting inked in spite of her.

  5. We’ve discussed this one a lot because my husband has multiple tattoos and I have none. I’m not against them, just to fickle to pick something that is permanent.

    We’ve decided on the “learn from Dad’s mistake” approach. No tattoos until they are 18 but we’ll really encourage waiting two years after deciding what they want to get it. If they still want the same thing after all that time then have at it.

    My husband somewhat regrets most of his tattoos except for his half-sleeves which he waited almost 5 years to get while looking for the right artist.

  6. I generally agree with most of the “no, not when they’re teens” comments.

    And holy crap! That tattoo looks innocent/happy-go-lucky until you really look at it!

  7. The circumstances would have to be right for me to allow my furture teenage son to get a tattoo before he was old enough to get it done himself. I was 16 when I got my first tattoo but it was after a huge trauma and a big depression and it was very symbolic for me. I love my tattoo and it still represents what i went thorough. That being said, at 16 I did not have the insight to realize that I should not get a 4 inch tattoo on my wrist.

    Piercings on the other hand, as soon as I feel he can take care of them, he can get as many as he wants.

  8. I can not believe how AGEIST some of these comments are. Do you really feel that when you turn 18 you’re somehow magically wise and knowledgeable, able to make good decisions? And that those under 18 are not any of those things?

    Every person is different. To stereotype someone because of their age is the same as stereotyping them because of their sex, skin color, or sexual orientation.

    Why not treat your offspring as individuals? Actually TALK to them, find out why and what kind of tattoos they want. You might be surprised.

    • In some cases I think that the “wait until they’re 18” comments come from the fact that once they turn 18 (or whatever the age of majority is in your area) the parent no longer has any direct control over their offspring. For better or for worse, it is no longer the parents decision to make.
      I know that when I tell my daughter that she has to wait until she’s 18, it’s because of that. It means, “I don’t like it, but at that point I can’t stop you”. That is the age that a person takes complete legal responsibility for their actions, good and bad.
      Hopefully a parent and child have a good enough relationship that parental influence continues, I’m nearly 40 and still take my mum’s opinion into consideration, but it’s a voluntary arrangement at that point.

      • I agree that our laws generally give 18 year olds full control over their lives.

        But I feel that many parents use that to not deal with certain issues and decisions. It has nothing to do with whether they feel their offspring or any 18 year old has the wisdom to make those decisions, but that the parents don’t want to be involved. Kind of a “plausible deniability” angle.

    • I agree with Barbra too, once they’re 18 it’s their choice whether we like it or not. I hope to do a good enough job raising my daughter that when she turns 18 she respects me enough to still ask for and listen to my opinion. Like I said below, I didn’t get my first tattoo until I was 20. Ideally I would prefer she wait that long as well but as soon as she’s 18 it’s not my choice. I understand that everyone is individual and maybe some 16y/o kid is making a sound, well thought out decision about what tattoo they want on their body but what’s the harm in waiting? Scientifically the part of your brain that allows you to think through a decision and weigh the consequences doesn’t fully develop until you’re 25 so maybe waiting till your older is better.

      On top of that, it’s both a personal issue and until the child is 18 it’s a family issue. Each family is different and has their own sets of rules/morals/cultural norms/ect. All I can speak for is my family and our choices, which involves waiting until you’ve turned at least 18. And all of this is going off of the premise that she will want her own tattoo, but maybe she’ll want nothing to do with them. At this point she’s not even 4 yet.

      • Similar response to what I said to Barbara, Some parents just don’t want that responsibility.

        Also, I think part of growing up is making mistakes, and then learning from them. Of all the things a person could do in their teens, getting a tattoo would probably be one of the least likely to have an effect on their life. Unless they get something extreme or highly visible (face) how is getting a flower, an animal, or a symbol inked into their skin really going to make any difference?

        On your last point I disagree because I don’t believe that just because someone is your child you should have full control over them. But that’s just my opinion.

    • I absolutely plan to open a dialogue with my daughter, discuss how to choose a shop and a design and placement (I have several tattoos) and hope that if she wants a tattoo, the discussion about getting one will be a bonding experience for us in her teens. And I will still refuse to sign for her to get one before the age of 18 (if that’s even an option according to the tattoo licensing laws in our state). A permanent mod should be her own journey, with her own ID and signature, without Mommy tagging along to sign off on the paperwork.

    • The “wait ’til you’re eighteen” thing for me is that it’s an enforced waiting period. Just like some people here have been saying “wait 3-6 months” or “wait a year”. I think that it scales nicely with the maturity needed to make that decision (so basically, it’s saying to a fourteen-year-old “wait four years”).

    • There is also truth that biologically our brains are very different as teenagers. In some ways you really aren’t the same person you will be.

      • True,

        But we hopefully learn and grow throughout our lives. I know I’m not the same person I was when I was 16, 18, 21, 26, or even 30.

  9. I guess it would depend on what it was. My dad let me get my first tattoo when I was 17 and it is on my left shoulder.but how am I suppose to say no to my child when I have a half sleeve on my arm? Guess I will see when the time comes.lol

  10. I don’t have kids (I’m an offbeat auntie!), but I would let them under three conditions:

    1. They were at least 16
    2. They had earned the money themselves (showing they were able to save for their goals)
    3. It is a tat they have been thinking about for at MINIMUM 6 months and have made a rough drawing of – not something their friends got, or that’s copied from a book of pics.

    I got my first tat at age 36, after thinking about one for – no joke – 16 YEARS. And even then, I got a completely different one than the original one I considered. I don’t think I would have regretted the one I first thought of, but it is interesting that it took me so long!

  11. My daughter will grow up knowing that she isn’t allowed to get one until she’s 18 and that’s just how it is. What goes along with that is discussing it before she even starts asking for one (if that even happens) and being open and honest about it… kind of like taking about sex 😉
    I have many tattoos but didn’t get my first until I was 20, and I can’t imagine what I would have on my body now if I had started earlier.

  12. If they can design an image that they love for four whole years and pay for it themselves…
    I had a design sketch book and could never stick with one favorite concept. I was changing in my teens, therefore my taste was changing.
    This more than anything else means I STILL haven’t got one (28 now).

  13. Of course I would! I would have stipulations as a parent though. They would have to think it through and be committed to the design for at least 6 months. They would have to wait until at least their 17th birthday. They would either have to pay for it themselves, get it as a birthday present, or as a reward for a year of good grades and no traffic tickets. They would have to get it in a place where it can be covered up. That way it won’t interfere with their ability to get a job and move out of my house. That means no sleeves, hand, neck, or facial tattoos. Lol!

  14. Depends what and it depends where. The tattoo I wanted at 15-16 years old is the same one I want one, but now I don’t have disposable income to spend on a tattoo. I also had friends who got tattoos as teens and don’t regret them.

  15. I’ve got 7 tattoos, including a nearly-half sleeve, but didn’t start until I was 18. My dad absolutely HATES them, and there was no way he’d let me ahead of time. I didn’t mind waiting though, because once I turned 18, I reasoned that he now wasn’t allowed to get mad at me because of it.
    I wouldn’t let my kids get one ahead of 18, though. My stepsister desperately wanted one when she was about 15, and managed to talk her mom (my stepmom) into it. I love my stepmom to death, but man, she can be a softie:) Anyways, my dad freaked, flat-out refused, and my stepsister ran into her room crying, as per a normal teenage freakout. I convinced my dad to let her get a henna tattoo, after explaining that it’s only temporary, and went to tell her, to which she responded “I don’t want a henna one, they’re not even cool!” Quite obvious that she only wanted a tattoo because she thought they were cool. I’d hate to be the reason my kid was allowed to get something that they would regret later. I figure, once you’re 18, hopefully you’ve outgrown, to some extent, the need to do things just to fit in. And if not, at least it won’t be my fault! 🙂

  16. It’s funny because my husband and I are opposites in terms of tattoos. He made his own tattoo gun (they’re very easy to make, fyi) and now has random homemade tattoos all over his hands, stomach and one on his leg. We’ve been together for 2 1/2 years and I still find little blue pinpoints all over him. I got my first TINY tattoo (the Pleiades constellation–literally seven dots and lines between them) at 25 after mulling it over for five years. I waited until my mid-thirties to get my other two, which are substantially larger and also very well considered. I also did a lot of research to find just the right artist (thank goodness he’s local) before allowing anyone to do what I envisioned. And I LOVE my tattoos and am SO glad I waited!

    So to answer the question…totally depends. I’m guessing no but it really depends on the what, why, and where. My hubby wished he hadn’t been quite so ink-happy as a teen; I loathe to think what I would have put on my body at that age. But perhaps our still-percolating-in-the-womb daughter will be wiser than us…who knows…

  17. I think it definitely depends on the situation and subject matter. For instance, my 16-year old step-daughter (will be 17 in three months) lost her grandmother to breast cancer last year. She will be getting a tattoo of a pink ribbon soon to remember her grandma by – her mom and dad have both approved it, and were she my flesh and blood, I would, too. If she were just wanting something frivolous, like Tinkerbell (as an example), I’d probably say wait until you don’t need parental approval.

  18. NO! I have tattoos and I want a half sleeve and a zillion more. So does my husband. BUT I cringe hard at the tattoos I would have gotten at 16! Hell, I cringe at the tattoos I would have gotten if I’d had more money at 18. If you want it at 16, wait until 18 to get it – They are permanent, after all.

  19. no way for me. my husband and i are both tattooed and i love it, but i’m not going to sign over someone else’s body. especially when i know that someone isn’t in their right mind, hasn’t even found their right mind yet! you have no idea who you really are until you go out into the world on your own. so, still living in your parents’ world, still in high school where your priorities are wonky, still a baby in the whole scheme of things….not a great idea if you ask me. 🙂 all that being said and even though i think 18 is a little young, once they can walk into a tattoo parlor on their own and pay for their own ink…go for it! i would always advise them to really think about it, find a fantastic artist, and then think about it some more (you can always get it later!) but ultimately that body is legally all theirs. i’ll protect it from their foolish teenager ways until then though!!

  20. No. I don’t care how mature they are, how well thought out the design is or how meaningful it is to them. Where I live it is illegal until you’re 18, and if the artist is willing to work illegally then they aren’t the kind of artist I want working on me, or my family.

    I would however also make sure I had an ongoing conversation with my kids about all body modifications. I want them to grow up to understand the benefits and risks of body mods, so they can make considered decisions.

  21. I’d would ask them to mull it over for a year, It seems like a long time but chances are, if they still want one after a year then they really want that on their body. 😛

  22. I think it depends on the teenager. I have some friends who got tattoos when they were under 18, and the results are mixed: some of them LOVE their tattoos to this day, and others regret it. I waited until I was 18 because my mother told me once my 18th birthday passed, she would pay for it. Definitely a big incentive for waiting, plus it gave me time to really think about what I wanted and where I wanted it. The whole thing turned out well, and I love my tattoo. A bonus was that my mom came with me and stayed the whole time, so it was a bonding experience. Of course, if my future kids think critically about what they want and pick something that not only has meaning but will stand the test of time, I think I might give them my consent when they’re sixteen or seventeen. MAYBE. But who knows?

  23. I’m thinking no, BUT… I got my first at 19, something small, because I didn’t want to commit to something huge at that age. 7 years later I now have an appointment for a 2nd much larger piece.

    For my first, I henna’d the design on for 6 months before deciding I definitely wanted it – it’s a really great way to give a tat a test run!

  24. I have thought about this, considering I have a a very large tattoo and really love them. I NY you have to be 18. My plan is to tell my kids that I will pay for their tattoo IF they pick something and want it for a solid year, like I did. I burned through so many ideas before I settled on the one I have, and I hate to think what would have happened if I didn’t have the foresight to be patient.

  25. I would tell them to draw a picture of the tattoo they want (or print it out, or whatever). If after one year they still want the same tattoo, and I approve of it, they can go ahead and get it. Teens change so much over the course of a year I doubt they will still like it!

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