The Choking Game

Michele Borba May 19, 2012 Comments Off on The Choking Game

Dangerous games kids play and the signs that every parent must know

REALITY CHECK: Do you know what playing Space Monkey is or the Fainting Game?  Have you heard your kids talk about the Pass Out Game or Black Out? If you don’t, you should. Chances are your kid does. It’s a risky activity many kids and teens are doing these days and it has deadly consequences.

“The Choking Game” is not new, in fact, it’s been around for decades. But the game continues to be played by kids and teens and with horrific consequences. Three big parenting mistakes about this lethal activity are not knowing the warning signs, not talking to kids about the dangers, and assuming “my kid would never….” I’ve reported the dangers of the choking game on the TODAY show and within hours I receive horrific messages from adults.

A reporter from the Orlando Sentinel called to tell me that a twelve-year old boy died in Florida. The child was found with a karate belt around his neck by his father. The boy had been playing this game alone. His father was only 10 yards from his son in another room, and didn’t realize what was happening. The dad was also a paramedic who could not save his child. The reporter said he had seen my segment and every warning sign I described fit this case. “If only every parent knew those signs,” he said.

A small Nebraska community of David City is still mourning the death of an 11 year-old boy. For three hours the entire town searched for Luke. He was found upstairs in his room with a belt around his neck. Drew’s parents feel that Luke heard about the game from friends and was only trying to “experiment.”

So parents, it’s time to get educated. You need to know the signs and how to protect your kids. I’ll give you that information and signs, but please pass them on to other parents. Doing so could very well save a child’s life. Here is what you need to know about a potentially lethal game.

The Choking Game Rules

The Choking Game also known as the Fainting Game, Pass Out Game, Space Monkey and Black Out. The basic game rule is “asphyxiation” or for a child to get a desired ‘floaty’, ‘tingling’ or ‘high’ sensation achieved by shutting off oxygen/blood to the brain.

Techniques to achieve that high include pressing the thumb or hand tightly on the neck; tying a rope, necktie, belt around the neck; hyperventilating by holding the breath “hard”; or putting a plastic bag over the head until you become unconscious. A secondary ‘high’ is achieved when pressure is released and oxygen/blood returns to the brain.

The Choking Game can be “played” as a dare game in a group and has become popular at slumber parties. Kids take turns “choking” each other or another kid gives a hard bear hug from behind or applies pressure under the child’s heart (usually with the head of the other participant) until the victim passes out.

Many kids say they actually become addicted to the feeling repeating the thrill again and again. But the “game” has lethal consequences. Brain damage or permanent neurological disabilities due to the lack of oxygen is a possibility.

A Deadly Game

The Choking Game is not new, but seems to be gaining in popularity particularly as a solo venture. It is especially lethal and is responsible for a large number of juvenile deaths. As many as 250 to 1,000 young people die in the United States each year playing some variant of the Choking Game.

Tracking the exact number of deaths is difficult because many cases are reported as teen suicides, but here are stirring statistics that should make us push the pause button.

  • 87 percent of fatal cases involved a lone participant
  • 70 percent of choking game injury or deaths happened in the child’s bedroom
  • 60 percent of choking game injury or deaths happened when a parent was home

Typically this “game” involves kids 9-16 year olds and predominantly males although younger and older adolescents along with females may also be involved.

Please don’t assume that your kid “would never do such a thing.”  We’re seeing that often well-adjusted, high achieving students just looking to have a sensational experience (and assuming that this game is safer than alcohol or drugs) are engaging. Some children actually think this approach to “getting high” is safer than alcohol or drugs.

What Parents Can Do To Protect Kids from This Lethal Game

Know the signs!

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Changes in attitude (overly aggressive)
  • Disorientation or grogginess after being alone
  • Frequent-often severe-headaches
  • Inexplicable bruising or red marks around the neck
  • Keeping ropes or plastic bags left around, or neckties tied in strange knots or found in unusual places and may start practicing knot tying using such objects
  • Curiosity about asphyxiation. The child may ask questions such as: “How would it feel?” Or “What happens if someone….”

Warn your kids

Explain that this “game” causes not only slurred speech, gaps of memory, sudden outbursts of anger, but also possible strokes, seizures, retinal damage, brain damage or even death. Be firm and serious in your talks. Most kids have no clue how dangerous this game is or how the brain is effected by a lack of oxygen. It’s time for a serious science lesson! If your child doesn’t get the seriousness of this activity, do an online search (“The Choking Game”) with him and show photos or news articles about children who have died tragically doing this risky activity.

Start early

Studies show that kids are starting risky activities such as playing The Choking Game, as young as nine years old. Talk about these risky issues using age-appropriate information and teachable-type moments.

Monitor your child’s bedroom

Do so especially if you notice locked or blocked doors and unusual demands for privacy. Watch for suspicious neckties, plastic bags, belts or ropes left on the floor or  closet-especially with “strange knots.”  Know what your kids are doing, who they are hanging around with and which Internet sites and TV shows they watch. Monitor their comings and goings.

Teach real ways to say no

Kids say they want to know how to avoid peer pressure, but also say that “Just Say No” doesn’t work. Arm your child with an arsenal of peer pressure strategies.

Get savvy

Many kids are doing this activity alone for the high. If the child loses consciousness and there is no one there to IMMEDIATELY release the pressure, he is unable to help himself.  The child could suffer brain damage and death usually after three minutes.

Please, please, talk to your child about this deadly game. Then talk and talk and talk again. Stay involved. Monitor. Know your child’s friends. Watch those slumber parties. Know the parents of your child’s friends.

Now go hug your child. GO!

Michele Borba

You can follow me on twitter @MicheleBorba