“What About Tattoos and Body Piercing?”
by Jim Burns, Ph.D.
There’s no doubt about it, tattoos and body piercings are a part of today’s youth culture,
even as long hair and funky clothing were a part of the ‘hippie’ culture of the 1960’s and
1970’s. Many of today’s parents grew up during those times and experienced the drive
for independence from parents. It is a normal part of the process of adolescence to
experience that desire to become independent (and different!) from their parents. While
we still see this happen in the area of fashion (clothes, hair, etc.), today piercings and
tattoos are very popular in the youth culture. As a result, it is not abnormal for your kids
to be interested in these things. However, an adolescent’s desire for tattoos and piercings
(which are much more permanent than hairstyle) leaves many parents uncomfortable.
So, how do we, as parents handle the issue? Unfortunately, there are no easy answers.
Here are some comments and issues to consider when trying to come to a decision
regarding whether tattoos and piercings are right for your kids.
1) As a parent, you are in the position of authority (which is probably obvious - though
not always an easy thing!) You have to make the call on this. One of the most common
tips for parenting adolescents is "choose your battles wisely." This issue of tattoos and
piercings is one of those choices that you have to make. Ask yourself, for instance, is a
belly-button ring something that you believe is important enough to battle over? If so,
make your stand, but be sure to think through and suggest alternative, acceptable choices
that your teenager can make which allow them to express their growing independence.
2) A team of researchers from the Rochester School of Medicine and the Naval Medical
Center in San Diego, CA found that teens with tattoos and body piercings are more likely
to be involved in “at risk” behaviors, including increased sexual activity, drug/alcohol
usage, eating disorders and suicide. (Source: Sean T. Carroll et al., "Tattoos and Body-
Piercings as Indicators of Adolescent Risk-Taking Behaviors," Pediatrics 109 (2002):
3) According to the Internet website, Teen Health, the American Dental Association
opposes oral (tongue, lip, or cheek) piercing and calls it a public health hazard. The
American Academy of Dermatology has taken a position against all forms of body
piercing with one exception: the ear lobe (they also don't object as strenuously to belly
button piercing). Further, both the U.S. and Canadian Red Cross won't accept blood
donations from anyone who has had a body piercing or tattoo within a year because both
procedures can transmit dangerous blood-borne diseases.
4) Also, according to the Internet website, Teen Health, piercing body parts includes risks
such as, chronic infection, prolonged bleeding, scarring, Hepatitis B and C, Tetanus,
abscesses or boils, permanent holes in nostril or eyebrow, chipped or broken teeth and
5) In the online article, “Tattoos and Body Piercing: A Big Decision,” author Tania K.
Cowling, writes that when it comes to discussing this issue with your kids, be sure to talk
about the following factors:
“Passing Fads—Remind your teen about other fads and trends that are no longer in
“Appearance—Ask your teen how he wants to be viewed by other people...
“Health Concerns—It takes a long time for the body to heal from a piercing...
“Compromise—If you can’t stand the thought of your child with a tongue bar or a tattoo,
come up with a solution you can both agree on...”
6) One of the latest trends in youth culture is... having tattoos removed! Medical
professionals report more people have been coming in for laser tattoo removal treatments
in recent years – which can cost in excess of $1,000.
7) Finally, I've seen numerous, great, Christian young people who have tattoos and
piercings – and many others who don't have them. To me, more important than the issue
of whether or not to allow your kids to get a tattoo or a piercing are the issues that have to
do with your teenagers’ attitudes regarding authority and respect towards you. In the end,
as your teens grow to adulthood, one of your most important tasks as a parent is to help
them learn how to make good decisions and to become a functioning, independent,
Christian adult. Whatever you do with this tattoo/piercing issue, be sure to try to move
him one step closer to this goal.