Report roundup: Parents hesitant about tattoos for their teens

As tattoos become increasingly common among all age groups and segments of society, many parents may be faced with decisions about granting permission for their teen to get a tattoo. This month’s Mott Poll report asked parents about their views and concerns regarding tattoos. Parents and media across the country have shared their thoughts on this topic. Here’s a roundup of the conversation.

Concern & consent

While the majority of parents in the Mott Poll wouldn’t even consider letting their teen get a tattoo before age 18, 1 in 10 parents said it would be okay as a reward or to mark a special occasion or remembrance. This was highlighted in a Reuters Health piece, Most parents are against teen tattoos. Reporter Linda Carroll notes that parents’ hesitation may stem from concerns about potential health and social consequences. For parents who are considering consenting to a tattoo for their teen, Mott Poll co-director Dr. Gary Freed suggests taking care when choosing a tattoo parlor: “Make sure if you do get a tattoo, that the tattoo artist wears gloves and that everything gets sterilized.”

Tattoo talk

Parents in the Mott Poll expressed several health and social concerns about their teens getting tattoos, such as infection due to unsanitary needles and possible regret in the future. In an interview with Inverse, Dr. Freed discussed the need for parents to communicate these reasons and concerns with their teens instead of just saying no. “Parents need to be clear about their perspective and have an open relationship with their kids,” Dr. Freed says. Inverse reporter Emma Betuel suggests that open conversations about tattoos between parents and teens is an important time to discuss self-expression and future implications of decisions made at a young age.

Tips for parents

How can parents better discuss tattoo concerns with their teens? U-M Mott adolescent medicine physician Dr. Terrill Bravender offers some tips for parents in a Michigan Health Blog Post, What to do when your teen asks for a tattoo. Dr. Bravender suggests parents ask questions about why their teen wants a tattoo, and discuss the potential health and social impacts it may have. He also emphasizes the importance of respectful discussion, whether or not parents agree with their teen. If parents agree to the tattoo, Dr. Bravender suggests researching the parlor and the artist, and if possible get a recommendation from a previous client.