Tattoos for Teens & Preteens

Best place (on body) for a teen to get a tattoo

April 2014

Hi. My son has gone through a major life-altering experience that he would like commemorated with a tattoo. Thing is, he's in 8th grade. We checked and 14 year olds can get a tattoo in Arizona with parental permission, so we're thinking road trip this summer. I'm on board with him getting something tasteful (!) that will be hidden by business clothes (in case that matters in his future), but we would like the body location to be somewhere it won't stretch in a weird way as he matures. His first choice location is the upper outer arm, above the short sleeve line.

Our questions: what parts of the body would a tattoo be least affected as a person gets bigger, and what's the pain factor of your suggestion.

(And, if any of you has recs for a quality tattoo parlor in Arizona, that would be awesome as well.)

Any other advice?

Tattooless AND Clueless

I got my first tattoo at 16 thanks to some friends and some ink in their bedroom - once I was legal I had it covered and continued to get tattoos from there - today I have had 4 done at various times over 20 years.

I love my ink, and totally don't regret doing it - but your child is too young now. Because I ultimately made the decision at 18 these are my choices and something I picked as an ''adult.'' Whatever transition has occurred will still be true in 4 years, take that time to process and decide - and then go to great shop in the area of which there are many (safe, clean, experienced). wait on the ink

Parent Q&A

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  • Tattoo(s) on 11-year-old?

    (22 replies)

    Our 11-year-old son wants a tattoo, or even multiple tattoos. I am at loggerheads with my husband about this. He says it's fine, I say no way! Discuss, please...

    No. Just no. This is different than ear piercing. The desires of an 11 year old in terms of design, size, location, etc of a tattoo--if he could travel forward in time, I guarantee that his older self would say no. It's easy to take earrings off. Permanent changes like this--not until he's 18. 

    For our daughter, piercing was ok (she asked at about 11 or 12, nose first, and didn’t do her tongue until she was 18 and could pay for it herself simply because I shuddered thinking about it), but tattoos had to wait until she was 18. We felt the tattoos were riskier, and also they are permanent, where piercings just grow back if the youngster changes their mind. She’s probably had 3 piercings (besides ears) and 5 tattoos by now. 

    It is illegal to tattoo someone under 18 years old in California. (Cal Penal Code 653).  As a mom and former 11 year old, I also can't imagine that the body art I would choose as an 11 year old is truly something I would want to live with for the REST OF MY LIFE.   I understand if it is a tattoo to honor or memorialize someone or something important, but even that can wait.  There are many other ways to allow a minor to decorate their bodies and express themselves that are not quite as permanent and allow them to change their minds later.

    Wow - on an 11 year old? No way. That's just way too young to be able to make a decision about permanent changes to your body. I can't imagine that tattoo parlors even would do that work on an 11 year old. 

    Hi!  I love tattoos, but think it unwise to let an 11-year-old, however mature, make such a permanent decision. As well, 653 of the California penal code agrees, stating that

    Every person who tattoos or offers to tattoo a person under the age of
    18 years is guilty of a misdemeanor.

    How about semi-permanent tattoos?  I get that your son may not want the rub-on style of temporary tattoos that are readily available for kids, but businesses like Inkbox makes realistic tattoos that last from 8 - 18 days or so, I believe.   

    Good luck!


    No one would tattoo an 11 year old. it is illegal and even parental consent isn't allowed. I guess if your husband tattooed your kid himself he could get it done. Be prepared for someone to call CPS because that is insane.

    buy some fake tattoos and let your kid put them all over his body. Or buy your kid some body art pens.

    It is illegal in the state of California for anyone under the age of 18 to get a tattoo, even with parental permission.  End of discussion.  When he’s 18, he can make that choice for himself.

    Sharing my experience: my daughter wanted a tattoo badly. She wanted a tattoo on her chest or shoulder or both. I was always against her getting a tattoo but told her it would be permanent and she'd better get it when she is an adult and sure about it as her own decision, not just following people around her. I told her she would need to wait until she is 18. When she turned 18, she went to a college in the east coast and realized she had been living in the "Berkeley Bubble" and did not rush into tattooing. But her love for tattoo did not go away. She finally got a small tattoo on her inner foot, between ankle and heel after graduating from college.

    No way. The kind of tattoo and its location is something he will feel VERY differently about at 18, (not to mention at 25 or 30).  I would tell him it's not that you object to the concept just the timing. Remind him that the tattoo he would have chosen when he was 5 is not something he would probably want permanently affixed to his body at 11. 

    I don't think you can get a tattoo with and 11 year old even with both parents present. My friend's got their 16 year old one years ago with both of them there, but their second child had to wait until she was 18. The law may have changed. That being said, 11 year olds are very much children. Their brains are still forming! A tattoo is such a big decision, they may hate it by the time they are 12. This is something they'll have forever, or have to spend a lot of money on to get removed which is kind of silly and painful. They are just too young to make a decision like that. (I have 2 tattoos. and got one when I was 18 and had it covered up by the time I was 21)

    My 10 year old daughter has been begging for tattoos since she was about 7 and she is serious and relentless about it.  Luckily, my husband and I are in agreement about this.  We have told her that tattoos on people younger than 18 require parental consent (not even sure if that is totally true) and that we are not paying for or giving permission for her to get one in childhood.  When she is 18 she can do whatever she wants on her own dime.  We have engaged in big conversations about tattoos whenever she wants, though: what designs she likes, how tattoos "read" in different circumstances.  We have tried to focus more on how to make a decision about a tattoo and "best practices."  1) you need to be sure it's a design you can live with for a lifetime, and so far we have noticed she's wanted a different one each week. We assure her that when she is older, her preferences will "settle" and she will be more likely to choose a design that she'll love her whole life.  2) Tattoos are no place to be cheap: pick an artist carefully and be prepared to pay what is required to make a well crafted permanent mark on your skin.  (We have pointed out bad tattoos to her and also ones that have bled because they were done cheaply and not properly.) 3) We have pointed out that location is important and that some tattoos can prevent people from getting certain jobs they want.  Face, neck, hand or wrist tattoos can be barriers to certain kinds of employment.  We don't have any tattoos ourselves or any inclination to get one, but we have friends who have some truly beautiful tattoos and some who have regrettable ones. I know she will get one when she is an adult, so I'm just focusing on helping her make good decisions.  I do know this:  if we buckled now she'd choose something really stupid and then as an adult would hate us for putting a permanent body-altering decision in the hands of a ten year old. 

    No freakin way! There is no way an 11 year old would choose a tattoo that would they would like when they are an adult. I got an ugly tattoo when I was 21 and it took covering up my foot with a larger tattoo to hide it. I don't think that tattoo artists would do a tattoo on a child that young anyway. And children should have limits and parents should say no to things. Why are you even considering it? Get a temporary wash off tattoo for him. 

    Um...hell no...?  I'll be curious to see other responses, but 11-year olds' brains are not anywhere near fully developed and the likelihood they will regret the decision (or at least the choice of tattoo) is HUGE.  We don't let kids drive, smoke, drink, own guns, etc.  I don't think this is any different.  They're not mature enough to make responsible decisions, so our job is to do it for them. Don't feel bad about that. My sister tried to get me to help her get her tongue pierced when she was 15, and now almost 20 years later still thanks me for not letting her.  You are right to say no.

    Um, yeah. Bad idea. I'm pretty sure it is illegal for a minor to get a tattoo in California, even with parental consent. That aside, it is a supremely bad idea to allow or encourage a pre-teen (a child for crying out loud!) to make such a permanent alteration to their body.

    I would stand your ground. I like tattoos, but it seems like he is going to grow a lot more, and all of his skin will grow along with him. If nothing else, the tattoo will prob look bizarre in 7 or 8 years time. Also, I remember reading that younger people who get tattooed are much more likely to get them removed later. I mean, who thinks the same things are cool at 25 that they did at 11? Maybe strike a deal and let him get one for his 16th birthday? You should visit a tattoo shop without him and ask about kids his age getting tattoos.

    I would definitely would be on the no side, but maybe you could try Ink Box ( temporary tattoos as a compromise. That would seem to suggest tattoos are OK though -- not sure if it's tattoos in general you don't care for or just that he's 11.

    Good luck!

    I am definitely not someone who would want my kid to have a tattoo.  Back when my kids were young, they had some temporary tattoos and that seemed like a good alternative.  You can find a lot of cool temporary tattoos on Etsy.  My daughter got a permanent one after she turned 18.  Luckily it is in a hidden place.  Maybe it is kind of like ear piercing? When I was a kid my mom wouldn't let me get my ears pierced until I was 16.  

    Omg! Sorry but what is your husband thinking!!?? I must admit that when I was 17, my bff and I took a road trip to LA and ended up getting tiny matching daisy tattoos on our ankles. We definitely got in trouble! I have no regrets, and later got a few more, but it is a huge decision and they are there forever!! first you should tell him that he is still growing and it might get distorted as he gets more muscles, etc. Also, he will certainly change/grow in his tastes, too, and could easily come to regret it (wow, how much my 14 year old has changed just in these last 3 years!). This is for him to decide when he is 18 (preferably older!). Many tattoo places will only do it on people 18 years or older. if my 2 boys (11 and 14) asked for tattoos, they would already know my answer: "heck no! Wait until you are an adult!" perhaps encourage him to doodle and draw and start designing his own (that's what i did) and take his time to really think about it. Also, he might want an important job and need/want to have it covered, so location on the body is also something to think about. This is a coming-of-age milestone that can be meaningful and he should earn it and plan for it for the future, just like voting, driving, college and all the important things we all have to wait for patiently. Good luck and stand firm!

    I say absolutely not. An 11-year old does not have the judgment or wisdom to make that kind of decision, one that will be with him for the rest of life. I told my son that if he wanted a tattoo i would pay to have it drawn on and redrawn regularly just so he wouldn't get something permanent.

    Tattoos are illegal in California for minors and are not allowed even with a parent's consent. Your son could try some temporary tattoos to see if he really wants to live with a permanent design on his skin. If he has a specific tattoo in mind, he can Google "custom temporary tattoos" to find a company to make it for him.

    Hi! I don't know if links show up in BPN posts, but I found the penal code your husband would be violating if he got caught trying to get a tattoo for your son. If the link doesn't show up, just google this: "California Penal Code Section 653 PC: Tattooing A Minor"

    It's literally illegal, and your husband sounds like he might have some serious issues. Is he a "fun dad?" Those guys are toxic. 


    I will add my opinion that 11 is way too young for a tattoo.  But people who posted that someone under the age of 18 cannot get one just because it's illegal are wrong.  Thanks to social media, there are ways to find an unlicensed person who doesn't care about age requirements.  My daughter got her first tattoo at age 14, without my knowledge or permission.  Plenty of tattoo "artists" operate without a license in a temporary spot or set up in a motel room and spread the word using social media.  My daughter got a half dozen tattoos that way before she turned 18.  One time, I found the address where she had gotten her latest tattoo and reported it to the police or health department (I don't recall).  By the time an inspector got there, the place had been abandoned.