For the First Time, American Academy of Pediatrics Weighs in on Tattoos for Teens

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The teenage years are for rebelling, right? Pushing boundaries, testing limits, and experimenting are things pretty much all teens will do at one point or another. For some kids, that can mean wading into the world of tattoos and body modification. Not so fast, teens! The American Academy of Pediatrics has some advice for you. Nothing says “buzzkill” like a bunch of kid doctors talking about tattoos and piercings, right?

Tattoos have gotten increasingly more mainstream in recent years. One poll says that 3 in 10 Americans have at least one tattoo. Many states still require a person be 18 or over to get inked, but there are states that allow kids as young as 14 to get a tattoo (with parental consent). Teens being the shortsighted creatures they are, that can lead to some pretty bad decisions.

tattoos and teens

Image: We’re the Millers

No “ragrets”? We can, uh, think of at least one.

The AAP has some recommendations on tattoos and body mods for the youth. Cora C. Breuner, MD, lead author on the study, encourages teens to do their research. “When counseling teens, I tell them to do some research, and to think hard about why they want a tattoo, and where on their body they want it.” Being impulsive can come back to bite you on the ass one day, who knew?

Besides thinking long and hard about what kind of tattoos they want, the AAP also emphasizes doing your research when it comes to choosing a shop.

Shop practices have come a long way, but getting inked or pierced somewhere that doesn’t follow proper procedures can have real consequences. As with just about anything, there are risks involved in tattooing and body modification. Infection, scarring, bleeding, and cysts are just a few of the possible (but rare) complications. The AAP says to make sure the shop and artist you choose practices safety and sterility procedures, and gives you adequate after-care instructions.

Most importantly, you have to remember: tattoos are forever. Well, forever or until you burn them off. Which, ouch and cha-ching!

Only about 23% of people with a tattoo regret it; while that number is comparatively low, it is rising. Getting a tattoo when you’re young can lead to regretting it later in life. As much as teens love to #YOLO, something tells us they won’t want to look at that hashtag on their arm when they’re 47. Tattoo removal is expensive and painful, and while you won’t have a badly drawn cartoon on your shoulder anymore, you will have some scarring. Also, teens should consider placement when deciding on a tattoo. Pretty much every artist will turn down “job-killer” tats: hands, face, neck. Don’t want to be gainfully employed for the rest of your adult life? Tattoo your face!

Image: Giphy

If your teen wants a tattoo, don’t freak out. Talk to them about it, and if their mind is made up, be involved in the process.

Make sure they are asking the right questions, and choosing a good studio and artist. And definitely make sure they at least consider the long-term ramifications. No one wants to end up on a list like this.

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(Image: iStock / vladans)