Th'ink': Tattoo or Taboo

Either out of choice, or due to peer pressure, many teens are getting tattoos done. But, is it safe? And are corporates welcoming of it? This article tells you more.

By Akshaya Ganesh

Th'ink': Tattoo or Taboo


As your little one grows up, you know what’s coming your way. Chocolates pave the way for carbonated drinks (yes, they are now proudly called energy drinks), bicycles pave the way for power machines and what not! You may give in to most of the demands as they look largely harmless, but how you would react if your little one comes up with a demand for a permanent tattoo?

Yes, it is the inescapable truth. Tattoos are the rage among teenagers today. Some sport a butterfly, some go the gothic way, and some just get their loved ones’ names inked.

Why do youngsters get inked?

For many youngsters, tattoos represent a cause. It becomes a mark of their identity. Shreya Vishwanath, a student, wanted to get her first tattoo when she was 8! However, she waited until she was 21 to get herself permanently inked. She says, “I got my tattoo done because it symbolises that my late sister will always be a part of me. The tattoo is also because I don’t want any closure. It indicates that she lives on, and this is how I express that she is always going to be there.”

There are some youngsters who give in to peer pressure and get a tattoo done to look cool. And then there are those who get inspired by their favourite celebrities. Karthik Bhushan, a Limca Book record-holder for being the youngest tattoo artist in the country, admits that a lot of youngsters come to him to get inked because their favourite celebrity has one.

The regret factor

A recent study published back in 2014 in Daily Mail stated that one in six people hate their tattoos and want them surgically removed. There is always a regret factor associated with something that is permanent. Some youngsters end up regretting it because their outlook towards life changes with time, and their tattoos do not necessarily reflect that change.

However, the ones that regret the most are those who get their partner’s names inked but end up parting ways later. Add to this the fact that it is extremely expensive to get a permanent tattoo removed.

Tattoos may seem like a form of creative expression for youngsters, but our society hasn’t completely accepted those who sport tattoos. It is still a taboo for them. Ganesh Shankar, a parent, says, “Tattoos are sported by youngsters because they like them or crave for them. I do not like it at all when that happens, because they are playing with their body and trying to show off.”

The ugly side of tattoo

Getting a permanent tattoo can lead to infections if not done properly. Studies have revealed that tattoos are associated with a number of other medical risks. Improper piercing could lead to medical conditions like tumours, haematoma and other dermal conditions. Add to this the psychological issues that may crop up.

Sometimes, youngsters who get too many tattoos done can have Body Dysmorphic Disorder, where a person is obsessed with his body. Leading psychologist Kavitha Ramakrishnan says, “Youngsters have body image issues all the time. They usually feel that their body isn’t naturally beautiful, and that getting a tattoo is one way for them to feel better or boost their self-esteem and cover up what they think looks ugly. There is a connection between Body Dysmorphic Disorder and extreme tattooing as well.”

Talk, talk, talk…

If your child wants to get a tattoo done, first of all, tell her it is not legal to get a tattoo done if she is below 16. India still follows England’s Tattooing of Minors Act 1969, wherein tattooing of persons under the age of 16 is illegal.

And then, explain why it is not just about a legal requirement. Explain the possibility of infections and urge to take full precautions.

“A lot of precautions need to be taken before you get inked. Firstly, decide on a good design you won’t regret later. Then, find a tattoo-artist who has a good C.V. on him and follows all the safety procedures,” suggests Karthik.

Getting a tattoo is a personal choice. Kavitha believes, “A tattoo is a form of artistic expression for some youngsters. It can also signify that he or she is a rebel, but in a good way. A rebel who stands for a cause.”

The bottom-line is, let your child get inked only if he is sure about it, otherwise he may end up regretting it later. And yes, you need to be sure about it too! I got my tattoo done because it symbolises that my late sister will always be a part of me. The tattoo is also because I don’t want any closure. It indicates that she lives on

Not for army aspirants

If your child wants to join the Armed Forces, tattoos are a dangerous choice. Indian army recruitment rule clearly states, “Permanent body tattoos are only permitted on inner face of forearm i.e. from inside of elbow to the wrist and on the reverse side of palm / back (dorsal) side of hand. Permanent body tattoos on any other part of the body are not acceptable and candidates will be barred from further selection.”

Tattoos define behaviour

According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, “Tattoos or piercings in young people may represent defiance, affection, alliance, sexual preference, uniqueness and/or beauty, self-expression or quest for social acceptance. Tattooing has been associated with delinquency, substance abuse, and dropping out of school. One survey at a naval medical centre documented that teens who participate in tattooing and body piercing are more likely to engage in risk-taking behaviours such as sexual activity, drug use, and disordered eating.”