SURVEY: Parents concerned about health, employment effects stemming from tattoos

10 percent think tattoos are OK as reward, special occasion

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – In a recent survey taken by the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health at the University of Michigan, 78 percent of parents would not want their children to have a tattoo, especially during the early portion of their adult life.

Roughly half of the survey participants said they were mostly concerned about negative health effects, like infections, scarring or the passing of diseases through unsanitary needles.

Those parents were also concerned employers would judge their child in an unfair way if they were to have a tattoo, with 24 percent of them saying it would reflect badly on the parents of the child with the tattoo.

“As tattoos become increasingly popular across all age groups, more parents are navigating discussions about tattoos with their children,” said poll co-director and C.S. Mott pediatrician Gary Freed, M.D. M.P.H. “Many parents agree that tattoos are a form of self-expression but worry that teens may not consider potential health risks, how a tattoo may impact them professionally or the chance that as they age and mature, they may regret getting a permanent tattoo.”

Only 10 percent of parents believe a tattoo would be OK for their child to get as a reward, for a special occasion, or if it could be hidden when necessary. One in four parents have already had a conversation with their child about tattoos, according to the survey.

Additionally, 63 percent of survey participants said they consider tattoos a form of self-expression, like dying hair or choosing clothes. But on another note, the participants also strongly supported state laws that require parental consent for tattoos for people under the age of 18.

A report done by the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2017 suggests tattoos and piercings are becoming more popular among young people and that pediatricians need to prepare to discuss the potential health risks with children. That report cited a study done by Pew Research Center that said 38 percent of people from the ages of 18 to 29 have at least one tattoo.

“In addition to doing their own research and having conversations at home, parents may encourage their teens to talk to their doctor if they ask for a tattoo,” Freed said. “While medical complications aren’t common, it’s important for young people to understand and consider all potential risks associated with body modifications like tattoos.”