A new study is being released tomorrow by The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control that outlines how at least 82 kids have died since 1995 playing the "choking game." Also known as the "blackout game," "pass out game," "scarf game, and "space monkey" it involves children, primarily teens, trying to strangle themselves or a friend with their hands or some sort of noose in order to achieve a brief euphoric state. According to the study, kids are trying to get a "cool and dreamy" feeling.
This number of deaths could actually be conservative as the choking game is not listed on the death certificate or any public health databases. Instead the report relied on those instances that were covered in the media. The report also did not include injuries from the choking game, which can include loss of consciousness, concussion, fractures, hemorrhages of the eyes, as well as permanent neurological disabilities such as seizures. More than 86% of the deaths were boys in the 11 – 16 age range with the median age being 13 and virtually all of them were alone.
What is troubling, and why I’m writing about it, is that none of the parents had ever heard of this game until their child had died. Robin Tobler, the author of the study, admits that this game has probably been played for generations but what is concerning is that now teens are playing it alone and using items such as scarves, T-Shirts bungee cords and dog leashes that can increase the risk of death. This game should also not be confused with suicide or autoerotic behavior which is considered a different behavior.
It seems as if everyday there’s something else we need to discuss with our kids but it’s these threats, that moms are completely unaware of, that are perhaps the most shocking. Some of the warning signs parents can look out for are bloodshot eyes; marks on the neck; severe headaches; disorientation after spending time alone; ropes, scarves and belts tied to bedroom furniture or doorknobs or found knotted on the floor; and unexplained presence of things like dog leashes, choke collars and bungee cords.
Moms sometimes hesitate on bringing up issues such as these for fear that if their kids have not heard of it a conversation will bring it to the forefront. But the best way to protect your kids is open, honest conversations. They need to know what dangers face them and need to hear it from their most trusted source – their parents. So make sure you are in the know about the choking game and have a conversation with your kids this weekend.