Tammy Barrow of Marietta was 10 when she was finally allowed to get her ears pierced.
That's part of the reason why the 36-year-old decided to get her daughters' - now ages 2 and 7 - ears pierced when they were infants.
"I messed with mine and they got infected," she admitted.
ERIN O’NEILL The Marietta Times
16-year-old Chelsea Sims braces herself as Kelley Ink employee Al Sully prepares to outline a tattoo on her hip. Sully, a veteran artist, said his clientele keeps getting “younger and younger” and then joked “or maybe I’m just getting older.”
"My daughters haven't messed with theirs. They don't even notice them. But I do sometimes think we should have waited until they were old enough to make their own decisions (about the piercings)."
Not that their decisions would change, she suspects, because her daughters are "girly girls".
While others might not agree with the choice to pierce the ears of someone so young, barely able to communicate, Barrow's thought is this: "they're my kids and it's my decision."
Ohio tattoo and piercing laws
3730.06 Consent for performing procedures on persons under age eighteen
(A) No person shall perform a tattooing procedure, body piercing procedure, or ear piercing procedure with an ear piercing gun on an individual who is under eighteen years of age unless consent has been given by the individual's parent, guardian, or custodian in accordance with division (B) of this section.
(B) A parent, guardian, or custodian of an individual under age eighteen who desires to give consent to a business to perform on the individual under age eighteen a tattooing procedure, body piercing procedure, or ear piercing procedure performed with an ear piercing gun shall do both of the following:
(1) Appear in person at the business at the time the procedure is performed;
(2) Sign a document provided by the business that explains the manner in which the procedure will be performed and methods for proper care of the affected body area following performance of the procedure.
Source: Ohio Department of Health
The debate of how young is too young to get ears pierced has grown to include tattoos and piercing of other body parts now that these have become the norm.
In a 2004 survey published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 22 percent of women and 26 percent of men said they had tattoos. The numbers are higher among young adults: Tattoos were reported by 36 percent of 18- to 25-year-olds and 40 percent of 26- to 40-year-olds in a Pew Research Center survey from 2006.
Barrow personally has no tattoos but would not be opposed to her daughters having them when they're older, as long as they keep them minimal.
"I don't like them when they're all over. But a few would be OK," she said.
Shelley Davis Mielock, who works with colleges and corporations on dress codes as part of her image-consulting business in Lansing, Mich., says parents should point out that tattoos and unusual piercings are still frowned upon in some industries and segments of corporate America. Disney employees, for example, are not permitted to have visible tattoos.
"At 17, 19 or 20, you don't know what your future holds," said Mielock. "I am not against tattoos or self-expression, but other people are going to form perceptions of you based on these things. I recommend if you're going to get a tattoo, get it where you can cover it up."
Mielock has two tattoos, but has not allowed her 17-year-old son to get one. "He argues that I am being a hypocrite, but this is a decision I made as an adult and I made it knowing the perception other people could have," she said.
Parents should also research state laws. Some states prohibit minors from being tattooed altogether; others - including Ohio and West Virginia-permit minors to get tattoos only if they have parental permission or if a parent is present.
Stacie Rodriguez, 32, is part owner of Kelley Ink, 215 Second St., which she opened in December with fiance, Jeff Kelley.
Rodriguez doesn't tattoo others but has 12 tattoos of her own.
The love of ink, however, doesn't carry over to her 11-year-old daughter.
"She thinks mom has too many and needs to stop and she thinks piercings are gross," Rodriguez laughed.
Her 6-year-old daughter, however, wants to follow in Kelley's footsteps.
"She wants to be a tattoo artist."
Rodriguez doesn't think there will be an argument about tattoos and piercings when her daughters get older but she will make them wait until thy are 18, regardless.
"I just really think people need to think about the location and the kind of tattoo," she said.
"What you want at age 16 might not be what you want (later on)."
"Are you sure that's what you want," Jim Sims asked of his 16-year-old daughter, Chelsea, during a recent visit to Kelley Ink.
Sims, a single dad and "mom" from Parkersburg agreed to let his daughter get a group of nautical stars tattooed on her hip - not her first tattoo, by the way.
"I think if we're open with each other and we can talk about it, then she won't sneak behind my back," he said.
Experts advise that making the debate into a power struggle is a sure way to force your child into doing something you forbid.
Maggie Macaulay, a parent educator and parent coach with an organization called Redirecting Children's Behavior in South Florida, also recommends setting reasonable limits while "side-stepping the power struggles when it comes to issues like this with teenagers. Make it a discussion so it isn't laying down the law."
The Associated Press contributed