Teen Tattoos and Piercings


Victoria Tracy, Reporter

Teens are sometimes frustrated about not being able to wear a facial piercing to school because it violates the school guidelines. Or they are frustrated because they have to cover up their “favorite” tattoo. Tattoos and piercings should start being more acceptable in schools nationwide. A nostril piercing or a small tattoo on your arm should not define teenagers or put them into groups of “bad” kids. Students should be able to freely express themselves without feeling censored. 

27% of high school kids have a body piercing and only 8% have one or more tattoos. Tattoos that were once viewed in the pediatric office as evidence of a high-risk lifestyle, but they have now become more mainstream. So many young people have tattoos now that the military relaxed the rules against them in 2015. “Students who don’t grow up with tattoos/piercings around them, may make them feel intimidated. So they kind of steer clear of those things just because they don’t know what to make of it,” Says Emily Stebbins, math teacher at Hillcrest High School. 

According to a magazine, Doctor Cora Bruener, who is a professor of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine at Seattle Children’s hospital, said, ”It should be brought up at doctor visits.” Asking questions like, “Have you considered getting a tattoo or piercing? If so where?” And questions like, ”Have you talked to your parents about it? Do you understand it’s permanent?” Dr. Breuner suggests that a child who wants a tattoo should walk around with a temporary one first to see if they like it. “Tattoos and piercings are often perceived as silly stereotypes like the person is lazy, or just anything negative you can think of.” Emily Stebbins speaks out about.

Doctors also suggest that teens should understand the area of body modification and body art should also understand the outcome, body anatomy, and personal health. Opening the conversation could be an opportunity to empathize the permanent nature of a tattoo. Parents should bring up to their kid of how a visible tattoo or piercing could affect employment opportunities later on. “I think it’s a positive thing for a kid to be able to express themselves as long as they are of age.” Melinda S. noted, a parent of a Hillcrest student. Naturally, decisions of such a permanent thing can alarm, frighten, or even disgust some parents. However, if parents put their feelings aside, they will be in a better position to talk calmly to their children about these options.                 

The use of tattoos has a long history dating back to 2000 B.C or even earlier. The purpose of tattooing varied from culture to culture. The Greeks for example used it for communication among spies. Romans used them to mark criminals and slaves. Tattoos also served as symbols of religious and spiritual devotion, decorations for bravery, sexual lures and marks of fertility, pledges of love, protection, etc..

A nose piercing is documented as far back as 1500 BCE. While lip and tongue piercings were found in the African and American tribal cultures. A woman (in most African tribal cultures) will receive some sort of nose piercing upon marriage. The size of the jewelry can indicate the husband’s wealth. A septum piercing symbolizes strength. Lip piercing and stretching is also a rite of passage into adulthood. 

Most tattoo places are governed by state. Therefore, the laws regarding teens with getting tattoos can differ from state to state. However, many states require youth to be at least 18 years old to obtain a tattoo, and/or require a guardian presence during the tattoo procedure on a minor. This also goes for piercings as well. “Most people have this idea that tattoos are hardcore because there is pain involved and have all these ideas that tattoos and piercings are bad. Especially adults that have no experience with it,” Emily Stebbins describes. 

“The purpose of my interview is to educate people and shouldn’t be to dictate students for what they look like.” Emily Stebbins clarifies. Top concerns for parents when their teen wants a tattoo is possible infection or scarring, diseases like hepatitis or HIV, later regret and/or negative judgement by potential employees. “These teenagers are in high school, and how do they have money to even get expensive tattoos?” Questions Melinda S. Teens (anyone) should make sure before getting a tattoo/piercing, that the salon is sterile and clean, as well as regulated by the state. 

It’s normal for a tattoo to take two to three weeks to heal. Expect a fresh tattoo to have mild redness and swelling. Tattoos can become infected with common bacteria, and staph. Rarely, you can contract other types of skin infection in a tattoo such as herpes and viral warts. If the swollen area starts to pus, if you have a fever, or if there are streaking red marks on your body, you need to seek medical care. Sometimes, the metals in the ink can trigger an inflammatory response.

When getting a piercing, the jewelry should contain stainless steel instead of nickel. Nickel has been known to cause an allergic reaction. Also, piercing guns should not be used because they cannot be properly sterilized. 

Tattoos and body piercings have been a popular form of self-expression throughout history, but today they’re more mainstream than ever. Nearly half of millennials (47 percent) and more than a third of Gen Xers (36 percent) say they have at least one tattoo/piercing. Getting a tattoo removal can be costly and range from $49-$300. Doctors say if you have a history of keloid formation, you should avoid modifications that puncture the skin. Pediatricians advise to remove piercings when playing in a sport with contact to avoid injuries. 

So should students be allowed to freely wear tattoos and piercings to school? Or should they not be? Should teachers be more accepting of this new age of “body modification?” So many questions and not enough answers. But, tattoos and piercings are becoming more and more popular amongst teenagers and someone needs to start accepting it besides teens.