Tattoos and the Law: Licenses, Age Limits, Safety

So your teenager wants to get a tattoo. As a parent you probably have a strong opinion about whether your teen or young adult child should be indulging in permanent body art. Before you have the big talk however, it’s best to arm yourself with the facts. Talking to your child about tattoos, piercings and other forms of body modification will be much more productive if you know the fundamentals of tattoo law. It will also help if you’re familiar with some of the basic safety and medical issues associated with body art. The following is an overview of a few of the issues that are likely to come up when talking to your teen:

*   Age restrictions: First things first: There’s no Federal law that sets age limits on tattooing. Age restrictions are set by the state and most states forbid the tattooing of minor children under the age of 18. Check the tattooing laws for whatever state you live in. Age restrictions fall into two major categories: 1) simple age cutoff (the law forbids tattoos to any minor under a certain age) and, 2) parental consent laws (minors are allowed to be tattooed with a parents approval, usually a form that must be filled out and signed by the parent). State laws regarding tattooing often, but not always, cover other forms of body art as well such as piercings. Again, check the laws of the state where you live.

learn about tattoos *   Licensing: Tattoo artists are licensed and regulated by state law. Usually (but again, not always) tattoo parlors and facilities are regulated by the state Department of Public Health. Log on to your state’s Department of Health website and generally you can check out the licensing requirements for tattoo practitioners. If your child has an artist or a particular parlor in mind, check to see if the facility and its practitioners have current state licenses.

*   Tattooing Risks: There are medical and health risks associated with tattooing. Some of the major risks include infection; blood borne diseases such as hepatitis; allergic reactions (often to the inks or metals used in piercing and tattooing), bleeding, swelling and scarring. Certain medical conditions such as diabetes or immune system disorders might make tattooing even more dangerous. Talk to your teen seriously about these risks. Often state health department provide free materials online and in print that describe the risks of tattooing and body art. Get some written material as back up before your talk to your child.

*   Tattooing Safety: If a tattoo artist is licensed you can assume that he is aware of, and observes, safety precautions, but you should be vigilant nonetheless. Before undergoing any procedures, visit the tattoo facility with your child and watch the artist at work. Does he do the following: wash his hands and use gloves, use sterile, disposable instruments, have a clean work surface, wash the area to be tattooed, talks to his clients about aftercare?

*   The long-term: Tattoos are forever – really. Teenagers and young adults often have a hard time picturing themselves as older adults, let alone old. Whatever art they choose to immortalize on their bodies they need to understand that it’s going to be with them at now and forever. Help your teenager visualize what the tattoo will look like on wrinkled skin by searching for images that show elderly people and their tattoos—it’s guaranteed to be an eye opener.

The argument that somehow all tattoos are ‘bad’ generally won’t work with teens. There are literally millions of people who consider tattooing a form of body art (there are many beautiful tattoos that absolutely qualify as ‘art’). If you are dead set against tattoos, a better argument is that although a good tattoo is art, a bad tattoo is a regret for life. There is even a reality TV show currently on television about the horrors of an ugly, poorly done tattoo. Be aware that the idea which says only ‘certain kinds of people’ get tattoos is not really valid today. A little research will show all kinds of people get tattoos. Still, getting a tattoo is a serious issue that deserves a serious discussion, especially between parents and teens.

*   Removal: Lastly, before taking the plunge, your kid needs to know just how difficult and expensive the tattoo removal process is. Unlike a new pair of shoes, a tattoo can’t be returned when you get sick of it or outgrow it. Do some research with your child about laser tattoo removal and make sure that the she knows what "permanent" really means. Again research and look over pictures of laser removals (they sometimes leave scars) and check out pricing.

Even if your child is over or under the age of consent to get a tattoo, make the argument with him/her that more information is always better. Talk to your teen about tattooing early and often. Providing as much information as possible in a practical and unemotional way can help dispel the romance and mystique of tattooing. Bringing to the discussion all the information you can will help you and your child make the best decisions possible.

If you find yourself on the loosing end of a debate about your son or daughter getting a tattoo, or have no legal means to prevent it, have a discussion about the type of tattoo and present the positives of getting a small, subtle tattoo in a location that this not visible when wearing most clothes. If your teen has aspirations of working in the professional field of any sort, you may also mention that many employers (rightly or wrongly) have a prejudices and/or misconceptions about people who have tattoos.

Tattoos, body art, piercings can be a bewildering topic for parents. This article is a brief overview of the basic legal, health and safety facts about body decoration. Starting a discussion about tattoos with your teen before they bring up the topic can give a parent an edge in getting ahead of the issue. Parents might also find it helpful to do research on tattoos as body art as well as the health and legal issues involved. A well rounded conversation on the topic can be of help to all concerned.

For more information, check out the article So You Want A Tattoo?. You might also find the site Tattoo Me Now informative.

Copyright Protection

Parenting Resources You Will Likely Enjoy …