Tattoos for Teens! Best Idea Ever

Janelle Harris

kid with tattoos

Plotting to get a tattoo used to be a rite of passage for any soon-to-be 18-year-old. What better way to flaunt your new independent adulthood? The key word here is a-dult-hood. So I’m more and more confused by the growing number of parents signing their permission for their 14-, 15-, 16-year-old kids to get tattoos, forgoing that time-honored tradition of threatening mom and dad with their plans to get a permanent mark-up.

I saw a girl in Walmart a few weeks ago with a butterfly on her temple. Feel me, y’all. Her tem-ple. I hope she really, really likes working for Sam Walton because homegirl won’t go far with a tattoo riding on the side of her face. To make it all the more faint-worthy, she couldn’t have been more than 17.

Aren’t we as parents supposed to keep our kids from making those kinds of stupid mistakes? So why and how would some levelheaded grown-up think it’s perfectly fine to give their underage son or daughter the green light to get inked up? On a body part that’s visible to the rest of the world?

Plenty of things are changing about society and pop culture, and this up-and-coming generation will reap the benefits of that shift. But nothing has changed so much that you can waltz into a job interview with “Brooklyn’s Finest” stamped across your neck and expect to be hired for anything besides the mail room. And maybe not even that.

I’m shaking an angry fist at the celebrities who bear so much influence over these trend-hungry teens for making extreme tattooing such a hot and fiery trend. But here’s the distinction that kids, especially kids who have parents with the common sense of a power drill, can’t seem to grasp: Lil’ Wayne is a millionaire, so financially he doesn’t have to worry none too much about what you, me, or any corporate American big wig thinks of the 50,000 tats that cover his face and hands and, good gracious, even the inside of his lip. Travis Barker doesn’t either.

Soulja Boy and Waka Flocka might have to worry later on down the line — neither of those poor fellas is the brightest bulbs in the box, so I don’t see a second career in academia or Wall Street for either one of them — but for now they’re okay.

But for Tyrone and Bradford and little Amy Jo sitting in high school chem or American lit classes as I rant, they’re going to have to play the employment game for at least a little while until they become wealthy entrepreneurs or high-powered Internet gurus and can use their bodies as graffiti billboards if the notion ever hits them. And they need to know that it doesn’t matter how many credentials are on their resume or how intelligent they actually are. If they look like Miami Ink’s best customer ever, they aren’t going to make a good impression. Or get a doggone job so that they can eventually move out of the house. And who in their right mind is setting themselves up for that?

As a responsible parent with all of this information under our belts and some life experiences (hopefully) guiding our decision-making, I can’t for the life of me understand why a mom or dad would let their underage kid get inked. You have some parents trying to drill into their teenagers that what they do now affects the rest of their lives. And then there are others green lighting piercings and tats galore.

I got tats when I just barely 18, paid for courtesy of a refund check I got in college. My mom was mortified, both times. And even funnier now is that I’m tired of them and want to get them done over again — that’s another consequence of getting body art done on a whim so early on in life. It gets old because you get old. Still, I fully intend to support Tween Miss Thang when she decides to get one (since she’s already expressed that she will in fact be going under the needle). But sign for her to get tat, tat, tatted up before she reaches golden age? Not hardly. 

Would you sign for your kid to get a tattoo before they were legally able to get one on their own?

Image via Bob Jagendorf/Flickr

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