Ear piercing Sheffield: Independent studios reveal 'best practice' about piercings for children
Sheffield’s independent piercing shops have shared what they feel is best practice for dealing with children in the wake of a viral video this week.
The debate over whether children should have piercings has exploded this week after a clip of a distressed girl having her ears done at a Meadowhall store went viral.
Now, independent studios in the city have shared what their policy is towards piercings for children, and where they think the law should lie.
What happened in the viral video?
Parents have voiced concern over a viral video showing a little girl being ‘forced’ to have her ears pierced at the Lovisa jewellery shop in Meadowhall.
In the clip, two adult women sitting on the floor both hold the child still and try to comfort her as a member of staff pierces her ears with a piercing gun. Another member of staff watches on.
The girl shrieks and says “no no no” multiple times during the 30-second video.
The clip, which has been widely viewed and circulated, has been met with anger by viewers who were concerned by the upset girl’s protests. One parent wrote she felt “physically sick” while watching.
A debate is raging on social media about children’s consent and whether it was right for the procedure to go ahead.
What does the law say about piercings for children?
There is nothing in the law for England that governs whether children can have piercings or at what age – it is entirely up to the child, their guardians and is done at the discretion of shops and studios.
One restriction in Scotland, however, is that anyone under the age of 16 must have an adult with them.
This isn’t a law in England, but many studios will enforce this as a store policy.
There is also no official register for body piercers. Instead, this is handled at a local authority level. At Sheffield City Council, any person in the business of piercing skin, which includes tattoos, must be registered.
What stance do the studios take about piercings for children?
Piercing studios are permitted to set their own policy over piercings for children.
This means they can decide minimum ages, what piercings they will allow and whether to use piercing guns or needles. This is also restricted by whether they are insured to pierce children.
For example, The Owl and the Pussycat Piercing shop on Devonshire Street does not pierce anyone under 16.
But every shop The Star spoke to in Sheffield stated that the child’s consent came first.
One studio, Dragon Tattoo of Woodhouse Road, Intake, allows piercings for as children young as five.
Owner Diana Badkin said: “We decided that age is appropriate because I feel that’s the age the child is able to ask.
“And if they decide they don’t want to go through with it, they should be allowed to leave.
“Very often a child will become distressed or uncomfortable, or change their mind after having the first ear done, and I just say ‘no problem, let's leave it’. It must happen once a week.
“We set this policy because a few years ago a lady asked if I would pierce their baby’s ear, and when she brought her in she was a week old. I said no, I wasn’t comfortable with it.”
Is there a problem with piercing guns?
One of the longest running debates over piercing children’s ears is whether piercing guns are acceptable.
As opposed to piercing with a needle, which can then be thrown away, piercing guns cannot be thoroughly sterilised after use.
They often also make the piercing using the jewellery or stud itself.
The use of piercing guns are common in teenager accessory shops or jewellery stories on high streets and shopping centres.
At Dragon Tattoos, Diana said she prefers to offer children the choice of having their ears pierced with a needle or a gun, citing: “Needles can be scary.”
Meanwhile, owner of The Owl and the Pussycat Liza Lazenby said: “Piercing guns are another issue – they cannot be sterilised properly and the use of jewellery to pierce with instead of a blade or needle causes unnecessary trauma.”
Since the video was shared this week, the debate over children’s consent has flared up, with hundreds of parents across the web scolding Lovisa and the adults in the video for going ahead with the piercing.
One incensed parent wrote on The Star’s Facebook page: “We teach our children all about consent and the right to say no and body-autonomy, and then when one of them says no to having their ears pierced we do it to them anyway. And it means their first body modification experience was such a traumatic one.”