While about 75 percent of kids know about this game, only 25 percent of parents do.
Listen up, parents: the choking game is making a comeback. You know, the one where kids make themselves pass out by breathing rapidly and heavily for about 45 seconds and then have a friend apply pressure to their chest so they lose consciousness? It's also sometimes called the "pass-out game" or "cloud 9." And you may or may not have played it with your own friends back when you were in middle or high school.
I know I did. We used to do it out on the playground in an attempt to attain the euphoric high that supposedly comes from regaining consciousness. Now there are videos all over Snapchat and YouTube featuring kids collapsing to the ground—some even having seizures—after passing out.
It may seem like nothing more that child's play on social media where kids are excitedly egging each other on. But make no mistake—the game can turn deadly, and it's now making headlines after an 11-year-old boy in South Carolina died while playing it.
"My name is Garrett Pope," wrote the young boy's father in a heartfelt post on Facebook. "I'm the father of the 11 year old boy, Garrett Jr., who passed away tragically this past Wednesday... and my family would like to share some words of caution. The Lancaster County Coroners office has determined that this was an accidental death caused by him playing something called "The Choking Game". It is where kids cut off their airwaves just enough to get a sense of euphoria. I'm including a link here for more information: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Choking_game."
Pope went on to explain that he had no idea that his son was playing the game, or where he had learned it. Now he's trying to spread the word to make sure other parents and educators aren't in the dark.
"My family has never felt pain like this before, and we don't want anyone else to go through what we are going through," he wrote. "Please talk about this with your kids, and do everything you can to prevent a similar tragedy. He was so young and impressionable, he didn't know what he was doing, and made a terrible mistake. We miss him."
So, so sad. And yet such an act of courage during a traumatic time.
Judy Rogg also lost her son Erik to the game back in 2009, when he was in 6th grade. She later founded Erik's Cause, an organization that works to prevent the practice by educating students and parents about the risks.
"This generations-old issue has seen a recent resurgence as a result of YouTube, making the internet a cyber-playground," Rogg explains on her website. "Kids learn this deadly activity from other kids all across the world and believe from other kids that it is harmless."
Rogg says the game is so popular because the tween/teen years are a time of curiosity and exploration. And while most students are taught the risks of drugs and alcohol, the dangers of the choking game pretty much fly under the radar. "The popularity of the choking game may boil down to one simple fact," she explains. "Children and adolescents believe it is safe because they are unaware of its dangers."
Meanwhile, Rogg says choking game fatalities appear to be on the rise, and statistics indicate that approximately 75 percent of all kids have either heard of or engaged in this activity, while only 25 percent of adults are even aware it exists.
So what can we do? For starters, we can familiarize ourselves with the game, urge our schools to incorporate risk-prevention curriculum, talk to our kids about the game's risks, and then sit down with them to watch the emotional "Help Stop the Choking Game" video from Erik's Cause.
Hollee Actman Becker is a freelance writer, blogger, and a mom. Check out her website holleeactmanbecker.com for more.