Teens and Body Piercings
Body piercings are quite common in the United States, and so it should come as no shock that parents often face that difficult question from their child, “Can I get my _____ pierced?” Young people get body piercings for many reasons, including to make a fashion statement, feel a sense of belonging with peers, express their identity, or rebel against their parents’ values.
Over 80% of teen girls have their earlobe pierced. Roughly 1 in 4 teenagers have a piercing somewhere other than an earlobe, such as the tongue, lips, nose, eyebrows, nipples, and belly button. While you may shudder over the idea of piercing your lip, tongue or nostril, to your teenager, these piercings may seem as common as smartphones.
Unfortunately, among people who get a piercing other than the earlobe, about 1 in 3 end up having a complication. If your teen wants to get a body piercing, they might not have thought through all of the risks or long-term ramifications. Use this blog as a reference point to talk non-judgmentally through the pros and cons and explain the risks involved. Laws about body piercings vary among states, but most require parent permission for a minor.
If your teen approaches you about getting a body piercing, use these tips:
Ask open-ended questions. If your teen asks to get a body piercing, ask questions before you give your opinion. Really listen to your child’s point of view. Your teen is more likely to be open with you if they feel that you value their thoughts and feelings. Ask your teen why they want the body piercing, where they want it, why it’s important to them, what research they’ve done, and how long they have been thinking about getting one.
Discuss care. A piercing isn’t a simple process—it requires continual care and maintenance while it heals. Make sure that they are aware of what they will need to do to take care of their piercing. Depending on the site your teen wants to get pierced, it could take up to a year to heal. And even after it heals, body jewelry can cause problems, too.
Discuss complications. As mentioned above, about a third of body piercings end up with some type of complication. As a result, your teen needs to be aware of these risks and consider how they will handle them:
- Infection at the pierced site is the most common complication. Local skin infections from staph or strep bacteria are a risk with any piercing. Of all the body sites commonly pierced, the navel is the most likely to become infected because of its shape. Infections can often be treated with good skin hygiene and antibiotic medications.
- Bloodstream infections, such as hepatitis or tetanus, are a risk if the piercing equipment is contaminated. It is important to be up to date on immunizations before having anything pierced and to find a reputable establishment following safety procedures.
- Mouth trauma can occur with lip or tongue piercings, including tooth chipping, gum problems, damage to the enamel, as well as swallowed jewelry.
- Allergic reactions to the jewelry are very common.
- Cuts and tears are a common problem during an accident such as a fall or sports injury.
- Scars can also form from piercings, creating a permanent mark long after the piercing is gone.
Discuss the employment impact. If your teen wants employment or already has a job, body piercings can be an issue. If their body piercing is visible, it can negatively impact their ability to get a job. In addition, their current or future employer might not allow certain jewelry for safety reasons, or they might have specific dress codes that prohibit piercings besides earrings.
Talk to someone with a piercing. Have your teen speak to someone who has, or had, a body piercing. Hearing a first-hand perspective might offer your teen additional insight. Encourage your teen to ask how the person felt about the piercing when they first got it and how they feel about it now, whether their piercing has had any positive or negative consequences, and whether the person would do anything differently now.
Ask your teen to do some research. If the piercing is really important to your teen, then ask them to do some research at reputable websites to learn more about it and report back to you. They should also research which local establishments have good reviews and follow safety procedures. If they’re not motivated to do the research, then they’re not that motivated to get the piercing.
Try to compromise. If your child wants a body piercing that you don’t want them to get, you might compromise on its location. Another option might be delaying the body piercing until your child is older. For example, you might offer to pay for it for your child’s 18th birthday, if they still want one.
Avoid total prohibition. It’s worth being careful about banning body piercings completely because this might result in your child getting one anyway, but without taking the proper safety precautions. Finding a reputable body piercer is very important for avoiding complications.