THE OPEN HAVERSACK: Tattoo craze
The art of tattooing is nothing new, for people have decorated their bodies from the beginning of human history. In many cultures it is used as a “rite of passage” from youth to adulthood, and has recently entered mainstream Western culture.
Many teenagers today believe it is a way to express their artistic freedom or pay tribute to people or things that have inspired them in some way. Whatever the reason, a person usually has a story associated with a tattoo.
Tattooing is the new fad that has taken our society by storm and many people as young as 12 believe it should be part of the body’s decor and are “sporting” this artwork. It is becoming so contagious that primary schoolchildren are seen with temporary versions on various parts of their bodies.
It is clear that the more popular tattoos become, the more teenagers want them, even though it is illegal to tattoo minors. Children are unaware of the dangers of this art. They are setting themselves up for the same kind of health risks as anyone sharing needles and putting themselves at high risk of contracting the hepatitis B or C virus, which may be transmitted sexually or by contact with blood and other bodily fluids that can infect the liver.
Cunningly, some children find a way to cover up their artwork so that it cannot be seen by teachers and in some instances, their parents. Between 8:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. on weekdays, plasters are becoming a regular fixture to some arms and legs. However, on weekends while taking a walk through popular malls one can see the alarming number of school-age children with tattoos strategically placed on their bodies.
Butt and lower-back tattoos seem to be quite popular as they are in places that are covered by underwear and uniforms. As one 15-year-old schoolgirl with a tattoo said: “You get a tattoo to show it off, therefore you wear the clothes to do that.”
That might be why many of our young teens are seen wearing the low rider pants exposing the cracks, crevices and top end of their butts to showcase their artwork.
Breast tattoos are no exception and some children can be seen going to school with their top button open, showing off their artwork – ranging from animal paw-prints to flowers and names. Schoolboys wear their tattoos on the upper arm, chest or back where they are hidden by the school shirt.
There are serious questions to be asked. Who allows these children to get this body art? Where are the parents when this is happening? It is clear that some children are running things and their parents have lost control.
Whatever the reason for wanting a tattoo,
• check for clean sanitary conditions – avoid the backyard of your neighbour; and
• avoid contamination – do not use ink directly from bottles to prevent contamination from the blood of a previous customer.
Use new and sterilized needles. Be sure that the needle is unwrapped in front of you.
Children should be aware that tattoos have no place in the work environment and could adversely affect a job interview. Remember, tattoos and viral infections are permanent. Make wise decisions.
• Rhonda A. Blackman is an educator, National Development Scholar and former president of the Early Childhood Association of Barbados Inc.