Tattoos a mark of the times but is permanent beautiful?

Erik Mosley stands underneath his brothers and sisters who are all wearing temporary tattoos. Photo: Simon O’DwyerKrysia Mosley was 22 when she won a London nightclub competition that earned her a tattoo, inked on the spot. She now has a little devil on her back and, she says, no regrets.

“It’s one of those things I did on a whim when I was young and silly,” she says. “Luckily, I was sensible enough to have it done in a discrete place.”

Now 40 and living in inner-suburban Richmond, Mosley is one of the estimated 12 per cent of Australians who have at least one tattoo. It is a rapidly expanding industry – an average growth rate of 4.7 per cent a year since 2009.

In its wake, the kid-friendly market in temporary tattoos has also found an audience. It is prompting debate over whether it is a bit of fun that passes as soon as the ink is washed away or could develop a child’s interest in body art.

Mosley has six children, aged 10 months to 11 years.  They are interested in their mother’s skin art, but bigger fans of the transfers created by New York-based tattoo artist Virginia Elwood, who has designed bespoke temporary tattoos inspired by children’s characters from digital play studio Toca Boca.

Mosley believes temporary tattoos are fun, but also encourage her children’s creativity. “I think these types of tattoos are really beautiful. They’re not just the roses or skulls that we had when we were growing up,” she says. “My kids really connect to the little characters.”

Elwood makes a similar case about her work. “I think transferable tattoos are a really great way for kids to express themselves,” she says. “I was always playing dress up and drawing on my skin with markers as a kid and temporary tattoos are just another extension of that.”

Not everyone agrees. Sydney mother of three Julia, who has three tattoos she regrets, says even temporary tattoos could have longer term consequences.

“I know that tattoos are so commonplace now that they are hardly an issue, but I think to put even temporary ink on young children tells them it’s acceptable to tarnish your skin without really thinking through the consequences,” she says.

“Children can hardly be expected to differentiate between real and fake. I think it just allows a certain casualness to creep in.”

Julia says she checks her sons’ party bags to prevent them indulging in temporary skin ink.

In Victoria, the legal age to get a tattoo is 18. In New South Wales, however, a child under 18 can get a tattoo provided they have parental consent that explicitly allows the type of tattoo and the positioning on the body.

Within the education system, policies about children wearing temporary tattoos are left up to individual schools. Coralee Pratt, principal at Camberwell South Primary School, says she would discourage children wearing temporary tattoos to school.

“We feel it is a fun home activity…that is more appropriate for home than at school.” 

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