Monday, June 29, 2009

Sue Scheff: Parenting Teens: Tattoos may teach young ones a lesson they don’t want

I understand that some people say that this is some type of way of kids wanting to have their own identity, personally, I would not want my teen to get a tattoo. I am not judging those that have tattoos, however I don't feel many teens know the long term effects and how it appears in that job interview. O-kay, maybe I am old fashion, but it is just my opinion.

Norwich Bulletin

There’s one thing I know for sure I don’t want to see on my sons: tattoos.

Perhaps I’m squeamish, as I always associate tattoos with the scary image on the Ray Bradbury cover of “The Illustrated Man,” hunched over in a ball in an isolated landscape.

When I was growing up, tattoos were for the fringe of society — and the two adults I knew that had them always kept them covered up in embarrassment.

Now, tattoos adorn movie stars such as Angelina Jolie, who makes for an odd sight in an evening gown and lines of Oriental writing marching up her neck. It’s jolting, to be sure.

From star athletes to movie and TV characters, tattoos are now a part of what is acceptable — even the norm.

Now, 36 percent of 18-25 year-olds have tattoos, inching towards the 50/50 mark that would make having a tattoo almost blase.

Risk for infection

And while most states have laws regulating tattoos for minors, it seems they have no problem getting inked — some going to more shady parlors that will ignore consent laws, and putting themselves at greater risk for infection.

I watched in horror when the young teen from Belgium claimed in the news the 56 black stars that now blanket her face like a constellation were the result of a tattoo artist gone wild as she slept. The story had many people skeptical, but one look at the tattoo artist, who had his own face covered in tattoos and had stretched his skin with heavy piercings stirred sympathy for the 18-year old.

In reality, it was the teen lying to deflect the anger from her father, who will likely be stuck with the expensive cost of removing the tattoos.

As tattoos become more mainstream, the risqué little rose blooming on an ankle is passé these days. More people are getting them on their neck, and on their face.

It’s one thing to dye your hair chartreuse, but tattoos aren’t easily removed, even with more advanced laser techniques.

Tattoos, which seem like such a drastic step — and one with potentially harmful health consequences — could be revisited for a stricter age limit, as drinking was when it was set at 21.

I say this not because I want to be a killjoy, but because of concern that the reason some teens might be attracted to tattoos has to do with image, and rebellion, all of which is mutable at the age of 18, or even 19 years of age.

At 21, people are young adults who are entering the workplace, and less likely to be swayed by wanting to be part of a group identity, but are rather guided by the person they have become.

If that person is one who will enjoy a tattoo forever, either as artwork or as a statement about their individuality, then there is less likely to be regret.

I cannot imagine the Belgian teen wanting her face to be adorned with heavy black stars forever. And the cost — and pain — of getting them removed likely will teach her a life lesson she could have done without.