Education Opinion

Choking game

By Jessica Shyu — February 18, 2008 1 min read
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At least 82 kids DIED from PLAYING the “choking game” over the past 12 years.

That many children between 6 and 19 years old died from ENTERTAINING themselves with things we CANNOT limit, remove or ban from them. They caused their own deaths not necessarily because they wanted to, but because they wanted to get a “high.”

Among the many mind-boggling things to me about this is that we know so little about it. As a young, friendly and fun teacher, I thought I had a fairly strong pulse on student culture at the boarding school I taught at in New Mexico. I wasn’t so far removed from their age to remember and recognize the dangerous and reckless things that intrigued teens. What I didn’t know about was this so-called “choking game,” a new fad around the dorm. When playing the “choking game,” also known as “pass out,” “space monkey,” and “blackout,” the person strangles themselves to get an artificial high.

“In the game, children use dog leashes or bungee cords wrapped around their necks or other means to temporarily cut blood flow to their head. The goal is a dreamlike, floating-in-space feeling when blood rushes back into the brain,” writesThe New York Times.

According to the article, up to 20 percent of teens and preteens play the “game” and the death count is likely low-balling it. That’s why it’s so outrageous that we don’t know about this more. The CDC only began keeping track of the issue last year. Most adults don’t know about it, I’m sure. I didn’t even address the issue until my second year with my students, and by then, no doubt a number of them had tried the “game.”

“CDC officials urged parents to be aware the fad exists, and to watch for possible warning signs like bloodshot eyes, marks on the neck, frequent and severe headaches, disorientation after spending time alone, and ropes, scarves or belts tied to bedroom furniture or doorknobs or found knotted on the floor.”

Many of the children who died from the choking game were described as bright, athletic students who apparently were intrigued by a method of getting high that doesn’t involve drugs or alcohol, he said.

They watch it on YouTube, or hear about it in school or at summer camp, said Sharron Grant, a Canadian woman who was a founder of an advocacy group called Games Adolescents Shouldn’t Play (GASP).”

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