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How Young Is Too Young For Tattoos?

By Sierra Black |

Miley Cyrus' New Tattoo

Miley Cyrus' New Tattoo

Miley Cyrus is sporting a cute new tattoo. She’s got a little black heart gracing her finger. This is the 17-year-old’s 3rd tattoo.

As the writers at The Stir put it, maybe someone should act like her mother and suggest this is too much? After all, tattoos are adult decisions. They’re permanent. They don’t always age well. You can’t know when you’re 17 what you’ll want inked on your body when your 64.

Clearly, Ms. Cyrus is in need of some adult guidance on this topic.

Maybe. Maybe not.

Is a tattoo really that serious?

For the most part, tattoos are removable these days. Miley’s not doomed to carry a heart on her fingertip for the rest of her life. She’s just doomed to have an uncomfortable tattoo removal if she wants it gone.

Yes, tattoos can heal badly and scar, as can removals. Some spots are worse than others: hand tattoos are notorious for aging badly. Miley’s ink will fade, just like her skin will sag and wrinkle. Time will change everything about her body, including the art she’s decided to wear on it.

So what?

Our bodies reflect our lives as we grow and change. Kids accumulate scars and freckles. Is a tattoo really so different?

Would you let your kid get a tattoo? At what age? For that matter, what about less permanent body modifications? I have a friend who lets her four-year-old dye her hair pink with temporary dye. Most people make kids wait on that one. But there is any real reason to?

Photo: the Stir

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About Sierra Black

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Sierra Black

Sierra Black lives, writes and raises her kids in the Boston area. She loves irreverence, hates housework and wants to be a writer and mom when she grows up. Read bio and latest posts → Read Sierra's latest posts →

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24 thoughts on “How Young Is Too Young For Tattoos?

  1. JEssica says:

    No I would not let my child get a tattoo, piercings (even for a girls), or dye his or her hair. But hey if you want your kid to do it that is fine by me.

  2. Samantha says:

    I’m tattooed– got all of mine after I was 18. I love them and I will definitely get more. However, when I was teaching high schoolers, I always cautioned them about getting tattoos right away. They are mostly permanent and what you like now, you may regret in a couple months. Most of mine are things I’ve drawn and thought about for months. Miley’s heart isn’t bad; it’s small and easily covered if she decides she doesn’t like it. If my kid wants a tattoo, I’ll tell her the same thing and I would encourage her to think about it for a few months.

    I’m less concerned about piercings (as long as they are done by a professional in a sanitary manner, of course!) I was 17 when I got my nose done and I went with my mum. She signed off on it after making sure the place was on the up and up. I had friends who pierced themselves; her reasoning was that she knew this would be done right and if I changed my mind, it was a tiny scar. She also never had an issue with my dyeing my hair wild colours. The only rule was not before a big event (no pink hair at graduation). It was pretty harmless self-expression in her mind. It probably helps that my mum is an artist, though!

    I’m definitely following these lessons with my daughter. If she wants pink streaks at 4, that’s fine with me.

  3. Rebecca says:

    No, I wouldn’t allow it. Nor would I allow them to dye their hair (except with stuff that washes out for stuff like Halloween). Like Jessica said, if you want your kid to do it, I don’t care. I just won’t.

  4. Warren says:

    Miley’s parents and brother are all loaded up with tats themselves. I even think they took her to get one of them. I hope Miley doesn’t go overboard with the tats. She is so beautiful just the way she is.

  5. goddess says:

    Under 18- on my watch.

  6. K. says:

    Under my roof = under my rules. No tattoos, no dyed hair and no piercings anywhere but the earlobes.

  7. Sierra Black says:

    So I agree, mostly. I won’t even let my little girls play with makeup because it seems too adult to me. I’m just wondering what the arguments are in favor of these restrictions. I have crayola-colored hair, multiple tattoos and piercings all over my body. What leg do I stand on telling my kid not to do it? The permanence argument seems thin to me: you could get a permanent scar riding a bike, but I never tell them not to do that.

  8. jenny says:

    Nope. Rights of passage are important.
    5 school
    7 sleepovers
    10 ear piercing
    13 makeup
    16 driving
    18 vote/tattoos
    21 drinking
    35 run for president ;)
    Anticipation is good.

  9. JEssica says:

    Sierra, tattoos I just find sleazy (sorry just personal preference), piercings (even ear piercings) I think look sleazy too (again sorry just personal preference), and dying the hair and make up are chemicals they are dousing themselves in for vanity sake with no science behind whether that is safe or not for kids to use.

  10. jenny tries too hard says:

    It depends on the kid and on the tattoo, for me. Most tattoos don’t say much besides ‘I like ______’ (lately swallows or nautical stars) and so it’s just a matter of whether that particular kid is mature enough to understand that other people will have different reactions to it (like thinking it’s sleazy) and care for it…and PAY for it. Other tattoos, specifically those that would make my teenager a target, like tattoos that are or appear to be gang-related, are just not happening. Really, I would take the request to get a tattoo that would be dangerous (looks like a gang tattoo) or severely crippling to his/her future (a Mike Tyson-style facial tattoo, for example) as a sign that my kid is not yet thinking long-term and thus shouldn’t be making this decision.

    Other than that, so what? Yes, someone might regret certain tattoos, but that’s life. If an ordinary tattoo on some part of the body besides the face or hands is regretted, you can always cover it with clothing, have it removed by laser or covered with a different tattoo. I actually have a tattoo that I don’t regret, exactly, but wish I’d considered the placement of more carefully, but on my list of things I’d do over, I don’t think it really rates. My husband actually has full sleeves of tattoos, (woo-hoo for sleazy guys!) so I think the appeal is kind of low for my own kids.

    As far as piercings, same deal. If I’m convinced you’re mature enough to pay for it, deal with reactions to it, and take care of it, I’ll sign for it.

    I’m not sure when dyed hair became that big a deal. It’s not permanent by any stretch of the imagination, the dyed part of your hair grows out! The worst thing that could happen (from getting your hair dyed by someone who knows what they’re doing) is looking silly for a while. I dyed my hair all the time when I was a teenager. My rule with the decidedly non-permanent hair is about the same—if I’m paying for your trip to the barber, you get to choose from the options I offer. When you pay for it, you choose.

  11. Laure68 says:

    For me the permanence thing is important. If, as a teen or tween, my kid wanted to dye his hair I wouldn’t really have a problem. It will always grow out. By getting something permanent, you limit yourself in the future. There are many professions where visible tattoos would be a detriment. I’m not saying my son needs to be in one of these professions, but what if he decides later this is what he wants to do? Even for tattoos that are not visible to the general public, it just seems like something so permanent that you would have to be an adult to make that decision.

  12. Linda says:

    My kids can get all the tattoos they want when they are adults and can choose to consent legally.

  13. Manjari says:

    JEssica, you think that MOST women look sleazy? Most do have ear piercings. I can completely understand the choice not to pierce your ears, but do you really think it looks sleazy?

  14. goddess says:

    What about sons with ear piercings, LOL???!!!!

  15. JEssica says:

    Yeah I do think it looks sleazy and cheap, I know it is unusual, I should’ve been conditioned to like it but I don’t. Probably the most distburbing is when ladies that wear too heavy ear rings (cumlative effect) and their ears are all stretched out. Yes most women when they display their ears prominently looks sleazy and cheap to me. And no I don’t like men/boys with piercings.

    And my ears were pierced when I was a baby (as normal in my region), I just don’t wear ear rings now.

  16. goddess says:

    To each! Love my earrings and tatts! Waited 40 years to get my first tatt and I love the 2 I have now.

  17. Kayt says:

    I’m tattooed and have my nose pierced, and my children will have to wait until they’re 18. The tattoos I have I thought about and saved up for and anticipated and was so happy to get. If I had gotten the tattoos I wanted at fourteen or sixteen, I would be one very embarassed, regretful person. My parents also fought with me about hair color and cut, but I don’t plan on fighting over hair. Hair grows back.

  18. JBoogie says:

    My hubby and I are both tatted (not sleeves or anything, but the occasional surprise under a strap or two!), and the only thing I will say to my son about it is that he needs to wait and figure out what he really, really wants for the rest of his life (I will forbid girlfriend’s names of any kind however). I had a nose piercing for a while, but took it out when I needed to get a salaried, benefits included job. Tattoos are a big deal when you make them a big deal. My parents absolutely forbid even the mention of it, so of course the day after my 18th birthday I went and got one. But my hubby’s parents were like “It’s your body, but it’s your body forever. Make sure you really want it and you go somewhere good”, so he waited until he knew what he really wanted and saved up the money to go to an artist, not a cheap parlor.

  19. Gin says:

    No tattoos ’til 18. Piercings I will consider on a case-by-case basis, but for the most part, I think the answer will be ‘no’ until they are able to do it without parental consent. Hair color/bizarre hair cuts don’t bother me in the least. (I’m tattooed, pierced, and usually pink-haired, FTR.)

  20. Quinn says:

    If a tattoo is the worst thing she’s putting into her body, she’s doing just fine. There are a lot of options, in her world, and if this is her most horrible choice, then she’s making great choices. As for my son, he’ll have the same rule about tattoos that I do: if he designs it, wants it to mark a life passage (so that it genuinely means something to him), and he knows the person doing the inking, then he can get one. Hair color can be done with Kool-Aide, and it’s safer to put on your body than in your body. I agree with JBoogle about limitations: hard limits like that give kids something to rebel against, practically insuring an early inking. Given that more than 30% of people under the age of 40 have a tattoo, it’s not exactly socially outre’, anymore.

  21. Sam says:

    I think her tattoos are cute an something she will like for awhile– and if not they are small enough to remove (and she’ll have the money.) and your argument that at 17 you won’t know what you’ll want at 64 isn’t too great… what makes 18 the better age? What’s the big difference?

    Plus, it’s her body, who cares?

  22. samuel de leon says:

    hoe cute is that tatoo.

  23. Susan Acevedo says:

    I seriously thought about getting a tattoo commemorating my sons life, he was murdered in 2002 just so undecided what I would ink

  24. Amanda says:

    Kinda of surprised so many are against hair dying. Though I see the point with chemicals and of course up to the family. I was allowed to dye my hair from blond to black when I was 12 and I’m so happy my parents let me! 17 years later I still always dye it black, I never felt like myself as a blond. I’m not inked yet (curses to money) but I do think no matter what the age you should really want it, have really thought about the design, research the artist and unless it is something you really adore never just choose a flash design but come up with something unique to/for you.

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