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Teens, Tattoos and Body Piercings


Head-in-Underware” Syndrome:

According to the Urban Youth Workers Institute, much of the literature detailing the risks of tattooing dates back to the early 1900s. Sadly, this is an indicator of society’s level of concern for the physical and mental wellbeing of its children and adolescents. The U.S. government may profess to care, but the paucity of studies and current literature suggests otherwise. In this article, however, you will be brought up to date.


Health Risks Don’t Apply to Me“:

Most underage purveyors of tattoos and body piercings do not think that the Laws of the Universe apply to them. They will not have a bad experience from getting a tattoo or a body piercing. As parents, though, your responsibility is to sit your kids down and give them the hard facts, probably more than once.


Body Piercings:

The most popular site for body piercing is the ear. Ear piercing can cause an allergic reaction. It can also cause a condition known as auricular perichondritis, which involves swelling, pain and even tissue death from the use of a dirty needle or by not adequately cleansing the area to be pierced. Ear piercing can cause earrings to become embedded and/or a traumatic tear in the cartilage and outer skin. A pierced nipple can become infected and scarred. The child may lose her ability to breastfeed. A pierced tongue is always subject to infection. Young people with pierced tongues are at risk for chipped teeth from the tongue ring hitting against tooth enamel. Genital piercings are the worst. Complications include bacterial infection, bleeding and nerve damage. Some people are allergic to the metal in the jewelry used in genital piercing. There can also be thick scarring at the site of the piercing. Hepatitis B and C, in addition to HIV/AIDS can be transmitted through the use of a dirty needle in any area of the body that has been pierced.



The ink used in tattooing is not regulated by the FDA. Some people are even allergic to it. HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis B and C along with bacterial infections can be transmitted through a dirty tattoo needle. Scarring is another common complication at a tattoo site. It can also happen from having a tattoo removed. The body may also perceive that the pigment in the tattoo ink is a foreign body and cause small knots or raised bumps around the tattoo.


Mental Health Risks:

Body piercing and tattooing in minors has been associated with other risk-taking behaviors, such as smoking cigarettes and marijuana, fighting, other drug use, truancy and teen pregnancy. All of these behaviors can cause mental health problems either during adolescence or adulthood. Lung cancer and emphysema from smoking may be a precursor to depression. Sufferers of these diseases have serious regrets and may also experience depression at having a condition that they could have prevented. Legal problems, incarceration resulting from fighting and its consequences puts a young adult at risk for depression also. Drug use can cause a mother to lose custody of her children. It can also “lite up” or exacerbate a genetic propensity for schizophrenia.  A teen mother may feel completely overwhelmed at her new responsibilities and lack of support. This can cause or contribute significantly to depression and suicidal ideations. Your Job as a Parent is to Watch Your Teen and Take Her to the Doctor, If You Suspect that Her Piercing is Becoming Infected.


Laws Governing Body Art:

Tattoos and body piercings for minors are handled at the state level. Thirty-nine states prohibit the tattooing of minors. Twenty-eight states have laws on the books that require parental permission for tattooing and body piercing. This is why children and teens usually get tattoos from friends and unscrupulous tattoo artists, resulting in health complications that could have been prevented. The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) lists each state and its body art laws and regulations. Parents should insist that their children and teens not get tattoos or body piercings until they are 18 years of age. If the young person persists and is given parental permission in a parental-permission state, the mother or father should accompany the child when he gets the body piercing or tattoo. This way, a parent can make sure that the technician administering the body art is reputable and does not have a criminal record associated with his or her trade. As a parent, you may not be able to prevent your child from getting a body piercing or tattoo, but you can help him to approach it with an abundance of caution.

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