The dangerous games kids are playing

Young kids are playing a dangerous game called the “choking game”. I hesitate to write the word game, because it is not a game at all! And frankly it scares me that kids are doing this. It scares me as both a health professional and a parent. They play it with little to no understanding of the extreme dangers involved.

If you don’t know anything about the chocking game, you’re not alone – 86% of parents have never heard of it. Most people have no idea how dangerous the choking game is until someone close to them dies or suffers permanent damage. According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, at least 7% of Ontario kids have tried it.  That’s over 79,000 students! And as many as 1,000 die each year ‘playing’ it.

Let me share with you a bit of what I’ve learned.

The choking game has many aliases, such as the pass out game, flatliners, space monkey, California high, knock out and the blackout game (just to name a few). No matter the name, it’s all the same. Dangerous!

It’s a strangulation game, an act of suffocation. Kids as young as  nine years old are playing it. They do it in groups. But even worse, they do it alone. They cut off the oxygen supply to their brain by strangling themselves with a belt, rope or their bare hands. Some push on their chests or hyperventilate. When the oxygen starts to return to the brain, the kids feel a “high” sensation, they feel “warm and fuzzy”. For some reason, kids think that it is a safer “high” than drugs or alcohol. They don’t understand that this feeling happens because the brain cells are dying. This game attracts high-performing students and athletes as they feel it is less risky than trying drugs or alcohol.

What can you do as a parent? Your best defense is a good offense. Be open with your kids, talk about tough topics including this dangerous game. Try the following:

  • Talk about the dangers (seizures, strokes, brain damage, death).
  • Teach them that brain cells are dying when they feel that “high”.
  • Teach your kids how to say “No”. Teach them to speak out and seek help from an adult if friends are playing.
  • Talk about peer pressure.
  • Talk about safe and healthy coping strategies.

Be aware of some of the common signs that you might see if your kids are playing the choking game:

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Frequent headaches
  • Locked doors
  • Marks on the neck
  • Knots tied around the bedroom
  • Wear marks on bedposts and closets rods
  • Disorientation after spending time alone

Start the conversation with your kids tonight. I did. Do you have any information or stories to share?

For parenting information or to speak with a Public Health Nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.


About Cynthia Lindsay RN

Hi everyone. My name is Cynthia Lindsay and I work as a public health nurse with the school years program. I've been a nurse for over 20 years (wow time flies!) with the last 13 years focused on what I've discovered to be my passion... Parenting. I now have many parenting accreditations and enjoy connecting with parents in the community through Triple P, parenting groups & social media. "Je parle aussi le français" and I love working, making connections, and raising my 2 teens with my hubby in Halton.
This entry was posted in Children & Tweens, Emotional Well-Being & Mental Health for Your Child/Tween, Emotional Well-Being & Mental Health for Your Teen, Keeping Your Child/Tween Safe, Keeping Your Teen Safe, Parenting, Parenting Your Child/Tween, Parenting Your Teen, Teen Brain, Teens and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The dangerous games kids are playing

  1. Deb says:

    Having lost a child to the Choking Game I have done much research and currently do presentations bringing awareness to the Deadly Dangers of the Choking Game. I have done more that 150 presentations to bring awareness and share our story. Although your statistic says that 86% of parents have never heard of the Choking Game, sadly 65-75% of my student audiences say that they know someone who has played the game. Also a survey done here in Ontario showed that 1 in 5 high school students admitted on an anonymous survey that they have played the Choking Game, most being introduced to it between the ages of 9 – 16. Thanks for sharing this awareness. I will send you a private email.

    • Thank you Deb for sharing your story with HaltonParents and our readers. I’m so sorry for your loss. Your advocacy is so important and far reaching. We, at HaltonParents are doing just a small part with this blog to help inform and educate parents about this terrible activity and to help them open the conversation with their kids. Thank you for sharing additional information and statistics. ~Cynthia RN

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