Teens And Tattoos: 'Think Before You Ink!'

About the author: Briana is a senior at Kenwood Academy High School and a reporter for The Mash, a weekly teen publication distributed to Chicagoland high schools.

Nothing seems abnormal about having tattoos in today’s world. In fact, according to a 2010 Pew Research Center report, 38 percent of Americans ages 18-29 have tattoos. As they become more common, teens look to tattoos as fashion statements and forms of expression.

Some teens claim getting a tattoo was a personal choice, while others admit to being pressured into it. Eunice Onyelobi, a senior at Kenwood, has 14 tattoos.

“A big reason why I wanted to get tattoos was indeed peer pressure,” she said. “And once I got my first one, I got addicted.”

Though the act of expressing oneself may seem harmless, how will these pieces of permanent body art affect teens in the future? Especially with job and college applications in the mix, most teens want to make a good first impression.

With tattoos becoming more acceptable in society, at least one student believes the future leaders of corporate America will most likely be branded themselves.

“Because kids are getting tattoos at such younger ages now, everyone is getting them and they’re getting a lot of them,” said Markeira Davis, a senior at Kenwood, who has four tattoos. “The people that are going to be hiring will have tattoos.”

Davis adds that tattoos shouldn’t be a factor when it comes to employment because it doesn’t affect the person’s ability to get the job done. But there’s still a chance that employers or college admission officers can make negative prejudgments based on tattoos.

Alicia Young, a Simeon senior who has five tattoos, disagrees with Davis. “Since it is so much of a trend, people are getting a little bit excessive and outrageous ... no one wants to see a doctor with tattoos,” she said. “You just wouldn’t be able to take them (seriously).” Like Young, Lindblom college math advisor Jessica Salazar believes tattoos will never be completely acceptable.

“It’s going to affect your future when you get a job,” Salazar said. “Employers see it as rebellious behavior. And if you do have tattoos, you have to do long sleeves. It’s going to be a life-changing decision.”

While Salazar realizes that tattoos will be more common in the future, she said she thinks some jobs will still look unfavorably upon applicants with tattoos, depending on the industry. “It will never change the fact that it’s going to look rebellious,” she said.

Though some teens may look forward to a future of acceptance with tattoos, others focus on the current state of acceptance when considering whether or not to get a tattoo. Waiting can lead to wiser decisions about what kind of tattoo you get—and where.

“You really have to think it out,” Young said. “The way you felt when you got the tattoo ... you may not feel that way when you get older.”