What is the Choking Game?

What parents should know about a dangerous behavior

The choking game is a danger to both tweens and teens.
Be sure you talk to your child about the dangers of the choking game, and answer any questions your tween might have. Photo: APatterson, freeimages.com

Question: What is the Choking Game and how can I talk to my tween about it?

Answer: The choking game is a dangerous practice of tweens and teens in which they self-strangulate in order to achieve a brief high. The high is the result of oxygen rushing back to the brain after it's cut off by the practice of strangulation.

The choking game (also known as Space Monkey) is very dangerous and can easily lead to accidental death.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there were more than 80 deaths due to self-strangulation in children aged 6 to 19 from 1995-2007. Boys are more likely to die from the choking game, but the behavior is a danger to both boys and girls.

In order to achieve a high, children may use ropes, scarves, or other items to strangle themselves, either alone or within a group.

According to the CDC, children who participate in the choking game may exhibit the following symptoms or behaviors:

  • Marks or bruises on the neck
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Wearing clothing that covers the neck, even in warm weather
  • Confusion or disorientation after being alone for a period of time
  • The presence of unusual items such as dog leashes, ropes, scarves, bungee cords, and belts
  • Severe headaches, often frequent
  • Secretive behavior, irritability, hostility
  • Bleeding under the skin of the face and eyelids

Other signs may include:

  • Wear marks on furniture (bed posts, door knobs, etc.)
  • Linens or ropes tied around door knobs or furniture
  • The frequent need for privacy

The choking game is also known as pass-out game, space monkey, the fainting game, scarf game, space cowboy, California choke, the dream game, cloud nine, and purple hazing.

If you suspect your child has engaged in this dangerous behavior, or if you hear that children at your child's school have engaged in this practice, you need to take quick action. Talk to your child about the real dangers of the choking game, including death, coma, possible brain damage. broken bones, and hemorrhages of the eye. Also, be sure there isn't anything going in with your tween that could cause depression, anxiety or desperate practices like the choking game. Try to get to the root of your child's problems, and if necessary, enlist the help of a professional counselor. In addition, alert your child's school and other parents should you discover that children in your area are in danger of engaging in the choking game. Above all, help your tween learn how to resist peer pressure, enjoy interests and passions and make sure your tween understands that you are always available to talk should your tween need a good listener.

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