Real lives: Debate!

A 13-year-old made headlines last week when she had her nipple pierced. What's the fuss? says Grace, 15, who loves her belly-button ring. Not only is it dangerous, it's very ugly, counters Kierra, 13

I WAS one week old when I got my ears pierced. I was nine when I got multiple ear piercings, 14 when I got my nose pierced and 15 when I got my belly-button done (I wasn't asked my age because I look older). If I get another, it will be on my face. Piercing my genitals and nipples doesn't appeal, but I've definitely become addicted!

I feel like saying to people who object: "Don't look at me if you don't want to see it." Piercing isn't a big deal to the person being pierced. They're not hurting anyone but themselves. It's other people who have problems with it.

Just because people with piercings look different, they're seen in a negative light. Some ignorant people think that if you have piercings you are a monster or rapist, junkie or punk with no occupation or ambition. That's ridiculous. It's not like piercing changes someone's soul or personality. The pierced people I've met are easy-going and open-minded. They don't judge others because they know how it feels.

Body piercing is attractive and original. I'm glad you can get your nose pierced at any age. It should stay that way. If government legislation tried to prevent me from getting pierced I would be so angry. It's totally out of order, because it's a complete invasion of privacy. I still can't believe that for a belly piercing you're supposed to be 16 years old. It's just silly. There should be a national survey to see what children think because, as it stands, adults have all the power and we can't do anything about it. That's wrong.

I'm very close to my parents and I discussed my piercings with both of them before I had them done. My mum encouraged me to get my belly done because she thinks I have a nice stomach. She said "It's up to you," but my dad isn't particularly into piercings. He's a bit old-fashioned, but he can't really do anything about it.

The way I see it, it's your body and it's up to you what you do with it. We need laws to discourage things like underage sex. Having sex too young can damage your body much more than a piercing. Getting pierced is different. Young people should be able to do it when they feel ready. They can make that decision for themselves. The only thing I regret is the cost. My nose set me back pounds 7 and my belly pounds 20, which is outrageous. The price can put young people off.

Of course, safety is an issue. I was aware there were risks in having my belly-button pierced, but I didn't care. Let's face it, life is full of risks and if you want to do something, I say do it and don't hold back. There should be better health, safety and hygiene investigations, but bad things can happen no matter how much you do this. Maybe if tighter rules were introduced, parents would accept that their children want piercings and be less afraid.

Parents should remember that piercings can close up. They should worry more about tattoos - they're expensive and unattractive and they're there for life.

PEOPLE WITH millions of piercings look terrible. They take it too far. It becomes a weird addiction. When I think of facial piercing I see these horrible, metal faces. I can't stand tongue piercing either, because of all the gunk that gets stuck in the stud when people eat. As for genital piercing, it's disgusting. Who's going to see your private parts anyway? It's not like you can show them off.

A kid who wants multiple piercings should definitely be stopped. If you can't have sex before you're 16, why should you be allowed to have studs in your nipples?

Besides, there are too many safety risks. If you're young and you go somewhere dodgy on your own, anything could happen because there are slimy, perverted people out there. They shouldn't be anywhere near teenage girls' most intimate parts - even if it is their job. On top of that, you can get infected and that can be really nasty.

I think children should have to get parental permission for every piercing, except when they're in ears and noses. Kids would be protected if they had to get their parents' advice and consent. If parental permission isn't needed, you could get people getting drunk and deciding to have everything pierced. Some kids do it just to rebel, so making parental permission necessary would cut down on something they might later regret.

The government should concentrate on making piercing shops safer. There are still places that are really unhygienic, which gives parents even more reason to worry. If you're going to have a new law, you've also got to make people stick to it. It's hard, because teenagers aren't meant to have underage sex, for example. But they do. I know one girl who wanted to get her nose pierced and decided to do it herself with a sewing needle. The stud wouldn't even go in because the hole was bent. It was ridiculous. She risked pain and infection and it looks stupid. The only thing that could be worse is a tattoo, because that's forever.

The piercers should be the ones who get prosecuted if they don't check ID - like retailers who sell cigarettes. But parents also have to play their part. Most want to protect their children from any kind of risk, but there are parents who agree with piercings. My dad's got his ear pierced and he wants both my little brothers to have theirs done. They're only three and five. My mum is dead against it.

That's another thing. To get children pierced when they're babies or toddlers is sick. First up, making a decision about something invasive for a child that young is disgusting and unfair. Secondly, babies and toddlers aren't fashion accessories like poodles with ribbons and bows. Kids might always bear the scars of a piercing they didn't even choose themselves. It's all about being mature enough to make your own, balanced decision. And under 16, we're too young to do that.

Interviews by Clio Turton, 17, Stuart Fletcher, 16, and Katherine Faulkner, 12, all with Children's Express, a programme of learning through journalism for young people aged eight to 18.

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