Reader Question: “Underage” Tattoos

So I just received a comment from a young reader that I’m not going to approve (because I don’t condone this at all) but I do want to address it in a post so that my feelings on this are known. 

The comment read, “I’m 16 and I want a tattoo but my parents won’t let me. How do I convince my parents to let me get one?” 

Well dear reader, you’re not going to like what I have to say here but that’s ok. It needs to be said: I agree with your parents. You are too young. 

Obviously this person lives in a state or country that allows the tattooing of minors with parental/guardian consent (note: Texas does not and neither do most states in the US). I don’t have children but if I did I would not approve an underage tattoo even if I lived in such a jurisdiction. Now that might sound hypocritical since I myself have tattoos but there is a very good reason for my position. 

The reality is that the brain is very underdeveloped during one’s teenage years and critical analysis of situations hasn’t quite set in. In reality the prefrontal cortex does not fully develop until the mid-20s. As such, one is much more likely to do things on impulse without thinking of the implications. 

Let’s be honest: how many people get a tattoo on their 18th birthday only to regret it a few years later? A lot. At that age they’re likely to just get something stupid without thinking it through. That’s what makes for regret. 

Personally, my recommendation is to wait until you’re at least in your early 20s to get your first tattoo. By then you’ve experienced the real world a bit and have a better appreciation for the consequences of this permanent decision. I know this isn’t what you wanted to hear but I don’t bullshit with anyone. I tell you how it is. 

I do have a few addenda to add to these though. Despite my recommendation I do think 18 is the proper legal age given the way our military is set up. I think all decisions of this kind (including the drinking age I should say) should reflect the military age. If you’re old enough to be sent to die in a war then you’re old enough to do whatever the fuck you want with your body. I might not recommend it  but who am I to stop you?

The next is concerning body piercings. I’m ok with body piercings at a reasonable minor age. The reason is these can be easily removed without much residual effect with the exception of very large gauge piercings which I think should be subject to age restrictions as mentioned above. 

The last has to do with those piercings/tattoos that reflect ones religion or culture. I’m ok with exceptions to the above for deeply held religious or cultural beliefs so long as the reasonably aged minor consents to these things and (s)he is not being forced into them by his/her parents or legal guardians. 

So there’s my opinion. Wait for now. If you still want that same tattoo in a couple of years who am I or your parents to tell you no? For now, sorry kid but I’m with your parents on this one. 

2 thoughts on “Reader Question: “Underage” Tattoos

  1. I agree. With everything you said actually. I let my younger daughter get her first facial piercings for her 13th birthday.
    My older daughter got tattoos from her friend at 15 and she hates them. Luckily they are easily covered by clothes. It’s better to think about a potential tattoo for a while no matter what age. Anticipation makes a sweet experience even sweeter!
    The drinking and smoking age needs to be lowered to 18 or raise military age to 21. If one is an “adult” at 18, all rights and responsibilities should be given.
    You nailed it with this post! πŸ™ŒπŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ’₯βœ¨πŸ’«

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    • I was almost 29 when I got my first tattoo and almost 30 when I got my first piercings (14g earlobe piercings). Do I regret waiting? Not at all.

      Of course, there are more of each in my future now but I still think every one of my pieces through and make sure they’re exactly right before I go under the needle. The planning process is several months long going back-and-forth with my artist. It’s worth it to take one’s time, I think.

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