. In Georgia, it is illegal to tattoo a person age 17 or younger. Parental consent is inconsequential. The fact that this child was tattooed speaks volumes regarding the ability to get a tattoo under the age of 18. I did notice that his mother's mug shot clearly displays a tattoo upon her neck. I have always pointed out that children mimic what they see. One only needs to look at professional athletes and one can see an endless array of "body art." We know that children idolize sports heroes, which brings us to ask these two questions:
1. "What is a hero?"
2. "How accountable should our sports icons be regarding behaviors both on and off the field?"
The first question is a matter of opinion. The second question has more implications since we know that children emulate their role models. The fact that this 10-year-old’s mother surrendered her parental duty and allowed her child to receive a tattoo is an example of poor judgment and an example of parents being a friend to the child instead of a parent. I recently took care of a patient whose mother had several tattoos on her breast, which made her unable to breast feed her infant. Her response to not being able to suckle her infant was “the tattoo artist didn't tell me that I couldn't breast feed" and my response was “the tattoo artist wasn't concerned about your parenting abilities." As I always mention, it is incumbent upon the parents to be their child's advocate and put their children first (because an unscrupulous tattoo artist won't).
Tattooing has existed for centuries. The name is derived from the tapping sound made by the needle puncturing the skin. In Polynesian cultures, tattooing was a symbol of social stature. In the U.S., current pop culture would lead one to believe the same social strata apply. A Harris poll reported that 16 percent of Americans have tattoos. In a 2006 study, researchers reported that among 18 to 50-year-olds, 24 percent of this age group sported a tattoo. A study by Urdang, Mallek and Mallon (2011) stated that people with tattoos were likely to be less educated, indulged in high rates of recreational drug use and were less likely to show religious affiliations. Catholicism and Judaism prohibit their faithful from tattooing. In 2007, researchers Burris and Kim reported that 50 percent of persons with tattoos expressed regret. On average, the buyer’s regret occurred 14 years after the actual tattooing event. One study in 1998 correlated tattoos with sensation seeking behaviors.
The Internet is full of websites dedicated to this form of "body art." In fact, one such website www.BMEzine.com voluntarily asked its viewers to take part in a poll. The results of this unscientific research were interesting at best. Male participants were found to have suicidal ideation at a rate of 36.6 percent and 19.5 percent had attempted suicide. In female participants, 40.8 percent reported having suicidal ideation and 33.3 percent had attempted suicide.
The point in mentioning all these scientific and non-scientific studies is to call attention to risk taking behaviors in which adolescents seem to gravitate. Teens can also be impulsive and be influenced by peers more easily than adults. The pressure to fit in and be current can be overwhelming. An unscrupulous tattoo artist will be more than willing to apply their trade to a child's body canvas. It is up to parents to discuss this current trend with adolescents. Just because tattooing under the age of 18 is illegal, it does not mean that it isn't available. The tattooed 10-year-old is proof of accessibility. Underground tattoo artists deal only in cash and they tend to change their venues to avoid arrest.
The risk of tattooing especially in hidden, un-regulated parlors with improperly sterilized tattooing instruments includes the following:
- Hepatitis B, C, D and E
- HIV or AIDS
- MRSA (methicillin resistant staph aureus or other staph infections.)
- Infection from other forms of bacteria
There are more side effects, but these are just a few.
Of course, the mode of transmission is through the use of dirty needles that have been used on previous clients, who are infected with an illness. It is estimated that 2-3 percent of tattoos are associated with complications. Regulated tattoo parlors must adhere to strict regulation according to current health code regulations. With new techniques on tattoo removal, one must remember that the tattoo may not be permanent but some of these life threatening illnesses certainly are. Stay well.
Should parents have the right to get their children tattoos? Vote in the poll below and tell us why, or why not, in the Comment Box.