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. Yes I would. But I would have them pay for it and pay for it’s removal down the line if they hated it. I might draw the line depending on the content too. But there wouldn’t be many topics I would ban honestly. Tattoos are a coming of age ritual for so many cultures. If my child chose it as theirs, so be it. Hell, I got my nipple pierced at 16. Oops!

  2. I’m 21, and I STILL feel like I’m not ready for a tattoo. Just this weekend, a local tattoo parlor was giving 3 by 5 designs for only ten dollars to celebrate their grand opening, but I decided against going. The biggest part of it was I just didn’t like the quality of the work, but I also didn’t want to rush headlong into something I might regret later.

    As for my own children, I would follow much of the advice shown here. They have to keep the same design and placement for at least 6 months, pay for it themselves, and no names.

    I also loved what my mother-in-law did for her boys. She had the designs they wanted drawn in Sharpie, and every day for 6 months, she would redraw it. All of them gave up on it after a month!

  3. Depends somewhat on the kid; but I’d certainly consider it. Bare minimum requirements, though, would be for them to have settled on the design for a full year before getting inked, and for them to pay for it themselves. If they’re that committed to it, they’re mature enough to live with the consequences 🙂

  4. My husband and I are heavily pierced and tattooed. we have agreed, other than ear piercing there will be no ornamental body modification until they are 18. We both waited until we were 18 for a number of reasons…We just don’t see any reason to allow our children to put a permanent mark on their still developing body. at the end of the day we waited and so can they (it also doesn’t allow them to come back on me for giving my consent for a tattoo they end up hating years down the road)

  5. My (six-times tattooed) mother (though they’re all pretty small) took my brother and I to Mexico on a cruise as our Christmas gift, and while we were there we each got a small tattoo. I was fifteen and he was twelve.

    Her restriction was that it couldn’t be larger than a fifty-cent piece, and it had to be able to be hidden. I still love mine and it means a lot to me. My now 20-year-old brother isn’t so fond of his, but then again, he got his initials tattooed on his own buttcheek. Perhaps twelve was too young…8^) Still, it was a great bonding experience for our family, and my brother and I remember that day fondly.

    As for my daughter, Olivia on page 1 hit it on the head with her restrictions. Very sensible, my friend.

  6. No, I would not. I have some pretty large tattoos and I love them. However, I got my first small pieces at 17, with permission from my mom. I don’t really like them anymore, but I’m not concerned enough to get them covered or removed. (While everything I’ve gotten over age 18, I still love and mean much more to me.)
    I hope to teach my teens that tattoos are 100% acceptable, but they are a decision to be made by a self-sustaining adult. And of course, I would want to make sure they are clear on shop and artist quality.
    I wouldn’t recommend that anyone get a tattoo that they haven’t planned on for at least a year. So if they really feel solid about what they want, it won’t be much longer for them to wait anyway.

  7. I would allow my child a tattoo on their 16th bday, because that’s when I got my first. It was my mom’s idea and she just stipulated it had to be somewhere easy to cover it up.

    13 years later, I still love it and it’s even more beautiful and meaningful to me now than it was when I chose it. It was actually insanely cool to uncover the layers of meanings in the design.

    It probably also helped that I was a pretty mature and intuitive 16 year old. My mom trusted me to make a good decision… If, God forbid, my 16 year old seems to lack foresight and judgment, I would hold off.

  8. i would have to say yes. i got my first tattoo at the age of 15, and i love it so much! mom and i went in and got tattooed together. i designed it, and i wear it proudly to this day. i have since purchased equipment and the majority of the tattoos on my body are ones that i have done myself. i have a couple that were at one time crap, but i fixed them. if my daughter, or my stepson wanted a tattoo i would help design it for them, and if i thought the idea was stupid i would help guide them, but it would be hypocritical of me to say no. i have done so many cover ups on people of stick and poke tatts they got as teens and pre teens, and they all covered nicely. yes tattoos are permanent, but you can always alter them at later dates or cover them up. at the end of the day it really isnt that big of a deal.

  9. I have 6 tattoos, my husband has full sleeves, a huge chest piece and one on his leg so we are obviously very tattoo friendly. My daughter is 16 and I would let her get a tattoo right now if I could, however our state doesn’t allow tattoos for minors, even with parental consent. She really wants an origami coelacanth on her inner arm. She loves that ancient fish and it was an idea we both came up with months ago. I think it would be beautiful!

  10. It depends. I have a few tattoos with plans for more as does my husband, sister, brothers, and many other people in my daughter’s life. She is 3. When she was 2, she told me she wanted a sleepy tiger across her stomach. At that point, she still couldn’t differentiate between tigers and lions, so I told her to wait. In all seriousness though, I think it depends on the kid, but I think I will probably encourage holding off until 18. As pointed out, because it’s illegal in my state and because there are certain rights of passage that shouldn’t be rushed. There are lots of things happening in the teenage years; I recommend enjoying them. 18 is soon enough to start the tattooing journey.

  11. I guess it’d depend on my kid. We would consider it and talk at length about it and if they had bad reasons then it’d be a NO, but if they had good reasons then I’d work with them to design something and then make them wait on it. I can’t honestly say that an 18 year old is overall more responsible or decided than a 16 year old.

  12. as long as i pay their bills after 17, i was going to have my kid (s) submit a written request, essay format. 12 pt font, double spaced of what they wanted and where they wanted to get one, and what shops they have researched and the pros and cons of said tattoo and the placement thereof. and then they have to take me with them. even then, decisions for or againsr rest upon my parental discretion. no joke. all of this coming from me, who has several! but if they dont think about it, then they will end up getting a prison tat or a pink zebra on their face. body mod is something that kids see and want because its cool, and they dont think “oh shit i could get hep from this….”

  13. I think it would depend mostly on my teenager’s personality. When I was sixteen I had already planned out two tattoos that I wanted to get and I still want to get them but I have a serious phobia of needles. The tattoos I want to get are really meaningful to me and reflect important parts of my life and myself, buuuuut a lot of sixteen year old teens cannot think past next week, let alone twenty years to think if they REALLY want that tattoo.

    My fiance got tattoos as soon as he was eighteen. He spent five years filling in one of his arms and now he really regrets it because he hates most of them. They were basically random ideas that popped in his head, plus he never got them colored in properly, etc. So his experience makes me very iffy about letting my teen get a tattoo.

    I met a guy from Hawaii who is a budding tattoo artist and had the first boy in his family in twenty five years. He’s convinced that by the time he is five the kid will have a tattoo (a family crest I think, or something similar.) and he was completely serious. I’m pretty sure I almost shit myself in horror. Just had to share that tidbit.

  14. I had a friend who got a tattoo <18, but it was after the death of her best friend and it was a memorial tattoo– I don't think she'll ever regret it.

    But I think, had I been allowed to tattoo myself as a teenager– I would probably be running around with Sailor Moon or Gundam Wing tattoos O_O SRSLY. (absolutely no thing wrong with that, but definitely not for me)

    So I think it depends on the context 🙂

  15. I didn’t read all comments but agree with most: oh no, definitely not. Besides the obvious fact that teens change their mind very quickly, their bodies are still changing, too. Especially boys, who might not have reached their final height at 16: what about getting a tattoo on a body that is still growing?

  16. My parents never said no to tattoos (or piercings, or anything else of that nature) when I was growing up. Instead, they discussed consequences. Not the, “you’re grounded,” type, but the talk about how it would be there forever, how I might feel about it later, etc. Suffice to say, I am 23 and still without tattoos, though I’m considering a wedding ring tattoo when I get married.

    • I have an engagement ring tattoo and I love it to pieces… I’m trying to find someone willing to upgrade it to a wedding ring tattoo for next month 😀

      It’s nice to have an engagement ring I can’t lose, and no prospective employer has balked at the sight of a visible tattoo- most don’t notice, and those that do think it’s awesome 😀 It was an excruciating experience though, not just for me but for my poor tattooist, who spent 45 minutes etching an intricate Celtic-inspired design around my tiny child-sized finger.

      Not sure if your marriage is impending or not, just thought I’d share my notes 🙂

  17. I agree with many posters, who suggested making the teen wait for a year. Conditions for sure! Another thing I would bring to the discussion is an awareness that tattoos are not as acceptable in many countries as they are in the US/UK. I got my first and only tattoo when I graduated from college, a few months before moving to Japan. I didn’t know that tattoos are associated with yakuza (gangsters) here, and that many public baths and most gyms have no-tattoo policies. I’ve been kicked out of the public bath, and my husband had to put a bandage over my tattoo every time I went to the gym! Not fun, and something adventurous teens should be aware of.

  18. I’m a firm believing in the 12-month rule. If a kid really, truly wants something for 12 months, and it stays the same something for that whole time, I’d be very willing to consider letting her/him get a tattoo after age 16. I hold myself to this rule (mostly so I don’t end up absolutely covered in ink), and have ended up with only tattoos that I love and that are meaningful, or at least memorable. I’ll impose some restrictions (no names, nothing “inappropriate,” no brand logos or band/celeb-related commemorabilia) just because I know a lot of people who have regretted those types of tattoos, but my kids are free to get creative work from quality artists with strong, established reputations (ideally someone I or my FH have been tattooed by before). Piercings within reason are okay, but nothing on/in the mouth (health/safety reasons), nothing genital (here’s hoping they never ask ME about that), and nothing that has a high infection/rejection rate. For either option, grades, behavior, responsibility, and all that other good stuff would be considerations, but as long as I felt that my kids were mature enough to handle it, why should I deny them something that has given me so much pleasure?

  19. I have tattoos. Got them at 24. Regretted it ever since. I’ve finally accepted them after years but still don’t like them. I’ve gotten others, which are easier to hide when they need to be, that I like a lot more. But I would definitely say no at least not until 18 and I would urge them to wait longer and make sure they knew what they were getting into. Maybe a sharpie one for a few weeks just to remind them it’s not going anywhere.

  20. My momma took me when I was 17, we got our first tattoos together… I had been employed for 4 years and the deal was that I paid for em and she signed for em. I got a tramp stamp. I have tattoos in 7 locations on my body now and my tramp stamp is now a full back piece. I think the decision has to be different from kid to kid… I was responsible,and my mom felt like it was something cool that I had earned.

  21. No, I have tattoos as does my husband. But due to my brother, who is our artist, I think they should be at better place in their life to determine what permanent really means. I was 20 when I got my first, even then I think I could have waited. Ultimately my brothers rule is you have to sit on an idea for a least a couple years, if you can still say its the right one then go for it.

  22. I would say no. I have a tattoo, but I didn’t get it until I was 25, and it was something I’d wanted for a long time (to echo what others have already said) and it carries a lot of significance about who I am. But if I had to pick something in my teens (or even when I was 19 or 20), I would have HATED it once I grew up a little more.

  23. As a 21 year old with no kids, I can’t say I have a lot of experience with parenting. But I do have a lot of experience being parented.

    I can definitely say that I will never let my kids have a tattoo until they turn 18. When you’re 18, you can make your own decisions, and parents have to accept that. But now, as a 21 year old, I am actually getting my very first tattoo tomorrow.

    Sure, if you’re 60 years old, the difference between 16 and 21 is nothing. But undoubtedly, I was a completely different woman at 16 than I am now. My interests, my life goals and philosophies, my hobbies, my friends, the music I listen to, EVERYTHING has changed.

    I was mature enough to handle a tattoo at 16, but I’m so glad I didn’t.

  24. I got my first tattoo when I was 14. My mother brought me and my father paid for it. Eleven years later I don’t regret getting it. It wasn’t like my tattoo had any significance to me at the time but now it symbolizes a certain time in my life and is definately a good conversation piece.
    However, I am a mom now and I have to say I would not let my daughter get tattooed at 14!

  25. My son asked me for a tattoo. I said “sure” providing that the tattoo featured neither cartoon characters nor words (two most regretted features), the artist was well-researched (I recommended British Ink in DC), and he paid for it himself.

    “Cool!” he responded, excitedly.


    “Wait, how much do they cost?”

    “Oh, they start around $100, no color.”


    It’s been three years. He still doesn’t have one.

Read more comments

Join the Conversation