Teenage Body-Piercing

March 30, 2009 by  
Filed under Ask Dr. Vicki, Teenagers/Tweens

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Dear Dr. Vicki,

Help! My 14-year-old daughter wants to get a body piercing! I think they are disgusting!

Dr. Vicki’s response:

It seems that every generation has to find some “new” way to express themselves; in this day and age, tattoos and body piercings seem to be in vogue. It is important to convey to your child what your concerns are and why you are unwilling to give her your permission. It is also important to find out why she wants to pierce her body. Some teens want to be ‘cool’ and fit in with peers; others like the look of a certain piercing. Certainly, ear lobe piercing has been accepted as mainstream for girls and women for ages. There may be some piercings you approve of and others you find distasteful. Is there room to compromise with an older teen? Perhaps trade a belly button piercing for a tongue piercing? If not, then your child will have to wait until either she turns 18, or has moved out of your home.

Most teens do not consider the risks of piercings. There is a great risk of infection in mouth and nose piercings because of all the bacteria found in these parts of the body. While piercing the ear lobe is relatively safe, cartilage takes longer to heal and is more prone to infection. Tongue piercings can chip teeth, infect the tongue and cause gum problems. Nipple piercing (yes, they really do this) can damage milk ducts and create potential problems for breast-feeding in later years. And then of course there is the issue of where the piercing is done, and how sterile the environment is. Piercings also affect the way teens are viewed by others, since they have negative connotations to many adults. They may be denied employment on the basis of what many consider poor judgment and offensive appearance. Teachers may view the student in negative terms, simply due to a piercing.

This issue really is one that I encourage parents to begin addressing at a young age. Respect for one’s body, and the need to take care of oneself can be taught early. Discussing the pros and cons of piercings, and why some are potentially more harmful than others is important. And be prepared to explain why ear piercing is considered OK, while piercing of other body parts is not! That’s a tough one, and mostly a matter of personal preference.

© MMVI Vicki Panaccione, Ph.D.

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