Multicolored hair dyes and contact lenses, the latest styles of clothes, blogging on the Internet - today teens have thousands of new ways to express their individuality.
More teens these days are turning to other ways of expressing themselves: tattoos and body piercings. The art of tattooing has been around for thousands of years, dating back as early as 1200 B.C. when bodies of Egyptian mummies were painted with tattoos.
In the past, tattooing was used as a way to show different social classes as well as to measure personal qualities like courage. These forms of self-expression have been made even more popular by famous A-list celebrities getting inked and showing off the result. Everyone from Angelina Jolie to Johnny Depp has visible tattoos.
The designs are limited only by your imagination. Body piercings can be as simple as ear piercings or more daring, like navel piercings, lip piercings or nose piercings and everything in between. So what makes these forms of self-expression so popular among teens?
"I think for most teens, it's because they want attention or to fit in with their other friends who already have them or just to look cool," Katelynn Zink, 18, a proud owner of two tattoos, said. She got her first at 16 and another this year.
"I think they get tattoos to permanently express themselves. Some teens get them to remind them of certain events or remember people that were special to them. As for piercings, I think they get those just because they look cool," explained Kati Trent, 18. In addition to several piercings, she has two tattoos, both done this year.
The reasons people have for getting permanent tattoos instead of temporary piercings are as varied as the people themselves.
"I designed all of my own tattoos and wanted to have my own artwork permanently on my body," Dillon Swisher, 17, said. He has had some piercings and has three tattoos.
"Well, my dad and I are very close, and it was something we both did together," Zink said. "This way, if anything bad ever happens between us, I'll always be able to look at it and remember the good times I've had with him. I've also always wanted one as a sort of remembrance of my life and the way I've lived it."
"I personally choose my tattoos carefully. I wanted to make sure I wouldn't end up regretting them at all. I got mine to remember someone very special to me and to express my feelings toward that person," Trent added.
From the teen's point of view, it seems like tattoos and piercings are an acceptable thing, a sort of "norm" in teenage culture today. It's just a part of daily life. How do the parents of these teens feel about their forms of self-expression?
"My father has many tattoos," Zink said. "He is very easygoing, and he saw that I was working hard for my tattoos, so he respected me wanting to get mine."
"Yeah, my parents both support body art, and they both have tattoos of their own, so they are OK with me having them," Dillon said.
However, not all parents feel the same about their teens' body art.
"My mom doesn't like tattoos and piercings, and I'm pretty sure she would prefer I didn't have them at all," Trent said.
Is the final result worth all the pain?
"Yes, definitely," agreed Trent and Swisher in unison.
"Yes, because every time I look at it, it reminds me of how much I love my dad, and it makes me remember the life I'm trying to live for myself," Zink said.
A tattoo is not something that should be taken lightly, according to the teens interviewed. Think through the design and placement of the tattoo as it is a permanent addition to your body.
"Make sure it really means something to you and is important in your life," Zink said. "Make it unique and your own. Make it you."
Zink also recommended thinking ahead to future and current careers.
"Most employers and career-types don't allow visible tattoos and aren't happy with face piercings either," Zink advised.
"Make sure you choose what you want carefully, so you won't wake up one day and regret the fact that you have something permanently on your body that you don't want to live with," Trent said.
Trent also pointed out that non-traditional piercings, although much more popular now than in the past, still are not accepted by everyone.
"Make sure you're willing to deal with the rude comments or the stares you'll get," Trent said. "You also need to be willing to take care of them properly. Infected piercings are no fun at all."