STUDENTS face being expelled from some schools for having tattoos. Yet some continue to defy the rules.
Of 15 students with tattoos The New Paper spoke to, nine said their tattoos were symbols of strength and freedom.
A 15-year-old who wanted to be known only as Grace said her tattoo is a reminder of a bitter experience. She said she got her first tattoo last month when she ended her three-year relationship with her boyfriend, who used to hit her every day.
She said: 'I told the tattoo artist to design an eagle on top of one of the scars my boyfriend left on me. The tattoo cannot be seen even in my PE attire so the school will never know.'
Her older sister, who wanted to be known only as Faith, now 19, got her first tattoo when she was in Secondary 4.
Do teenagers regret having their tattoos? Of the 15 polled, 12 said they don't.
Jonathan Tan, 17, a polytechnic student, said: 'I like my dragon tattoo and I think I may even add some touch-ups and details to the tattoo in future.'
A few, like Brenden Chia, 18, are ashamed. The junior college student, who got his tattoo when he was in Secondary 3, said he did it because his friends were doing it and he didn't want to be a 'misfit'.
He added: 'But when I look at my tattoo now, and think about the fair-weather friends that I have lost contact with, I just want to cover it up.'
Mason Andre Lim, 20, a polytechnic student who has tattoos on his arms and legs, now goes to great lengths to cover them up. 'My friends often tell me that I look intimidating. I've come to realise that the stereotype will always be there.'
Do students think before they decide to have tattoos? Of the 15 polled, 12 said they took more than a month before deciding to go under the needle.
Jasmin Tay, 17, did her first tattoo last year, while she was still in secondary school. She said: 'I spent almost half a year researching on tattoo aftercare and for the best tattoo studios in Singapore. I had to make sure I wouldn't regret having a picture printed on my skin and I wanted to make sure my uniform could hide it.'
Jasmin has a tattoo of a butterfly on her lower back.
Dion, 15, wanted a tattoo so that boys would notice her. She said: 'It makes me sexy and I feel more attractive after getting my fairy tattoo.'
Some wanted tattoos to help them look tough.
Thomas, 15, said: 'I'm a skinny guy. People used to think that I look like the sort who can be easily bullied. Now when I find myself being confronted, taking off my shirt makes people think twice.'
Most parents and teachers who spoke to The New Paper frown on tattoos.
Madam Julia, 55, a mother of two, said: 'I will object 100 per cent to my child getting a tattoo, even if it were a small one. I look down on people who have tattoos.'
However, not all adults were as fierce in their objection to tattoos.
A 30-year-old secondary school teacher said: 'I had a very artistic Sec 2 student who associated tattoos with self-control and discipline. This is the type of misconception some of the youths have. When those as young as 13 or 14 get tattoos, it's the excitement of breaking rules. It gets them the attention they want.'
A tertiary level teacher in her 40s who declined to be named felt that teens are too impressionable to be getting tattoos. She said: 'I object to scarring one's body permanently at a young, impressionable age because it is irreversible.
She said that she once saw the look of agony on a boy's face when he was getting tattooed and wondered why anyone would willingly undergo such treatment. It may signal low self-esteem. If so, the kid needs help.'
Pearly Tan, newsroom intern with additional reporting by Naveen Kanagalingam, newsroom intern
This article was first published in The New Paper.