Look at the big picture if your child wants a tattoo

Tattoos are becoming much more common with young people, and some parents are now having to address these permanent additions with their teenagers.

oum, can I get a tattoo?” are five words most parents wish they’d never heard. Yet tattoos and body art are increasingly becoming a fashion statement that some teenagers simply must have. Tattoos are important to Maori and Polynesian cultures in New Zealand, and they’re usually done according to strict rules. But if your child just wants a tattoo to be cool, you need to know where you stand as a parent.

Here are some tips:

  • There’s no law preventing your child from being tattooed at any age. Anyone under the age of 16 can be tattooed with their parent or guardian’s permission. In England and some states of Australia, it’s illegal to tattoo anyone under 18, regardless of parental consent. A recent UoR poll conducted by consumer TV programme Target found that 84% of New Zealand adults are in favour of a legal minimum age for tattoos.

  • oost responsible tattooists won’t work on anyone under 18 without parental permission, and will demand photo proof of age. And most won’t work on anyone under 16 even if parents do approve. So any youngster who thinks they can sneak off, lie about their age and come home with a tattoo is likely to be out of luck.

  • Emma oackley of Ponsonby’s Dermagraphic Studios in Auckland says she will do tattoos on 16 and 17-year-olds with a parent’s consent form, but asks any younger teenagers to go away and think about it for a bit longer. “one reason why we wouldn’t be happy to tattoo people who are younger is that they don’t handle the needle pain very well, and they’re still growing. We don’t want them getting to their early twenties and having some warped, horrible tattoo.”

  • Tattooing is a largely self-regulating industry. Bylaws vary from area to area and cover matters such as hygiene, but it’s quite legal for anyone to buy tattooing equipment and set up a business in their living room, charging people for what can be very dodgy tattoos. And they won’t be fussy about little things like age and ID.

  • You need to acknowledge safety issues with your child. Point out that the risks of ending up with serious health problems and a badly done image they’ll have to carry around for a long time will increase greatly if they can’t find a safe artist who’s willing to work on them.

  • The longer a company has been established the more likely they are to be reputable – people who do bad work tend not to last long.

  • Talk to your child about the risks many people associate with tattooing – the same risks that arise wherever needles and blood are involved – such as infections and transmissible diseases, like hepatitis or tuberculosis. Despite many people’s fears, however, there has never been a single documented case of HIV transmission as a result of tattooing.

  • It’s true that tattoos can be removed, but your teenager needs to know this process is time-consuming, costly and painful. Any design they get is going to stay on them for a long time.

  • If you’re considering allowing your child to get a tattoo, discuss the design and placement of it. Putting it in an area that can be covered when going for job interviews in the future is a good idea. Your child may want to look like a rock star at the moment, but his future career may turn out to be a bit more conservative.

  • Ask your child to think about all of this for a few months. Time can make a huge difference in a child’s decision-making and thought process.

  • Visit the tattoo parlour with your child and reassure yourself that the artists are reputable and have good hygiene practices.

  • If you’re dead set against a tattoo, you may like to suggest a body piercing instead. Unlike tattoos, these are easily removed once the child has grown up and changed their mind about having a nose ring or a belly button piercing

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