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Extreme Makeover: Piercings, Tattoos, and Plastic Surgeries for Teens

Extreme Makeover: Piercings, Tattoos, and Plastic Surgeries for Teens

Ah, the joys of motherhood. You bring your little bundle home from the hospital and she cries all night. Then it's off to preschool and dealing with separation anxiety. And then come the piercings: the ears, the nose, the naval, the tongue and the tats. Welcome to the tween and teen years.

Body modification, or "body art," has become a battleground between teens and parents, and many Circle of Moms members are reaching out to peers for guidance on whether, if ever, parents should pay for it.

"Watched Wife Swap tonight and one of the moms was really into appearances, encouraging her pre-teens to wear makeup, and the one daughter even said she had her belly button pieced when she was 11 years old," writes Brandy K. "Would you ever?"


"NO! NO! NO," writes Mae R. "I understand being into appearances I think everyone likes to look nice and likes their children to look nice, but NO WAY would I let my 11 year old get a belly button piercing."

Body modification or "body art" — tattooing and navel piercings — are nearly as old as time. But in the past two decades, there's been a steady rise in tattoos and piercings among teens ages 12 to 18, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

An ACOG survey found that 10 to 13 percent of teens report having tattoos and that more than 50 percent report one or more body piercings exclusive of the ear lobes. Among males, 38 percent had pierced ears, and 4 percent pierced tongues. Among females, 16 percent had pierced tongues; 6 percent pierced nipples, and four percent pierced navels.

Unlike plastic surgery, body modification can be performed by the teen themselves, leading to growing concerns about the risk of infections, says ACOG. (The most common complications are bleeding, infections, and viral infections like the methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA).

At the extreme end of the body modification spectrum lies plastic surgery, which moms of teens say is also increasingly perceived by their kids as normal rather than extraordinary. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), about 210,000 cosmetic plastic surgery procedures were performed on people age 13-19 in 2009.

All of these body modifications, whether surgical or performed in a tattoo parlor, pose real concerns for parents. Terri for one, who is a member of Moms with Teenage Girls, writes that her 16-year-old daughter is begging to have her nose pierced on both sides in addition to the two ear cartilage piercings she already had. "Help," she says. “I told her she could do this when she’s 18, but she is having a fit and wants it right now. I may look foolish for saying no, but is she being foolish for being so obsessed?”

"Absolutely not...they’re too young" says Tami B., calling nose piercings and other body modifications for teens “disgusting.

On the plastic surgery front, some parents are giving the okay, especially when their teen is the subject of bullying or taunts that may be appearance-related. Consider the mom who agreed to her daughter's rhinoplasty after the 15-year-old tried to break her own nose by banging her face against the door. According to ABC News, teens were bullying her at school.

As Meghan puts it to Circle of Moms members: “Some say it's no different than kids getting braces to fix crooked teeth. Do you think it's appropriate, and how young is too young?

“Personally, my kids would have to be out of the house and paying for it with their own money... so, at least 18,” says Carolee Y. “ I think it's WAY different then getting braces to fix crooked teeth. It takes your body until the late teens/early twenties to stop changing.”

Marylea C. says she was surprised recently when she saw a 13-year-old posting photos of her newly stretched ears: “I was 18 when my daughter was born. And it seems like 'bod mods' are the norm for my generation. ...when I was in the hospital one of the nurses had been shocked that I didn't have any tattoos. She told me that she hardly ever saw anyone who didn't have a least one."

Despite the frequency of body modifications and the popularity of plastic surgery, Circle of Moms community members agree it is a parenting issue that is causing stress in their households.

Experts at Akron's Children's Hospital offer these tips for moms to help in conversations (negotiations) with teens intent on tattoos and piercings:

  • Remain calm.
  • Ask your teen if he or she will still like the "art" 10 years from now.
  • Consider safety. Explain the safety issues — risk of infection, bleeding etc.
  • Encourage your teen to consult with peers who have had piercings, tattoos or plastic surgery and find out how their procedures went.
  • Discuss and decide on who is paying for the procedure.

Ultimately, where there is a will, there is a way and a teen will find out how to get what she wants, says. Ashley L.

"My teenager wants to get a piercing on her lip," says Ashley on Moms with Teenage Girls. "I am not approving this, but made the comment that she will do it anyway. 'What's the worst you can do to me.. (she said,) ground me?'"

Charlene W. says:“I think it's ridiculous. What kind of message is a parent sending their child when they let them get plastic surgery or in some cases encourage it? That they are not good enough the way they are and that any problem can be fixed with surgery.”

Would you foot the bill for body or facial modifications for your teen?

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.

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