I gave the following advice to one of my children, who’s now 18 and itching to get a tattoo because some of his friends and others he admires have them and he attributes coolness and other intangible qualities to tattoos.
“Tattoos are a quick and effective means of changing your external appearance, decorating yourself with symbols to enhance your social standing or remind yourself of certain human/non-human relationships or ideas. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this and many people enjoy their tattoos with few or no regrets.
I have one major concern with the easy availability of tattoos – the widespread practice of young people, who often lack the life experience to understand the long term consequences of their actions and the patience to wait out their impulses, getting tattoos as a means of quickly changing who they are, making easy but long lasting changes to their external appearance rather than doing the long and difficult work of changing themselves.”
I’m not sure whether my thoughts helped my son think more deeply about why he wants a tattoo. So far, he hasn’t gotten one. I hope if/when he does, he does so after having reflected on what he hopes to gain by it.