Teens are drawn to risky
behaviors like moths to a flame.
Ask a teen to drag race and he thinks it’s a good idea. Have some
friends jump off a cliff into the lake, and she jumps. But there’s
another highly dangerous game that may put your son or daughter’s
life at risk, one that has claimed the lives of hundreds of
One of my best friends, Sandra,* was the widowed parent of an
awesome boy. At 16 Kalen* was a star on the soccer team, pulling
down great grades and was involved in his high school musicals.
Everyone loved Kalen.
Imagine Sandra’s shock to return home from work to find Kalen
dead from strangulation. It wasn’t a suicide; it was what teens call
the choking game, the blackout game, the scarf game, the space
monkey, the elevator, the pass out game, hangman, and flatliner. But
whatever name it’s known as, it’s a dangerous obsession.
Unlike most risky behaviors engaged in by teenagers, this one is
most attractive to the star students, the happy child and the one
who is not engaging in other forms of risk-taking that might tip off
parents that something is going on. That’s why it’s commonly called
the “good kids’ high.”
These names refer to the process of temporary self-strangulation.
Blood rushing to the brain creates a temporary euphoric high.
Unfortunately, the “temporary” self-strangulation can quickly turn
permanent, causing unintentional death. There is also a version
where another teen will perform a choke-hold on another or constrict
breathing until the person passes out.
This phenomenon is so new that it was not even identified in
medical literature until the year 2000.
This game is especially enticing to young teens between the ages
of 11 and 16. Eighty seven percent of these types of fatalities
reported to the
Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta were boys. But these
figures are probably low since some of the strangulations were
mislabeled “suicides.” But even a high profile actor like David
Karradine, made famous by the Kung Fu television series, was enticed
by the euphoric head rush and unfortunately, he died in a hotel room
while in Thailand shooting a movie.
Because of the secretive nature of this, most parents are
blindsided by the horror of finding their child dead after playing
this game. And, because it can be associated with sexual behaviors,
there may be reluctance on the part of parents to share intimate
details with other parents.
It’s time we become better educated and proactive parents. Start
today by talking to your teenagers about the dangers associated with
such risky games. And, become an expert about talking about “secret”
things with your kids. The Mayo Clinic has published some warning
signs to determine if your child is experimenting with the choking
Does your teen:
Have unexplained bruises around the neck?
Complain of frequent, often severe headaches?
Have bloodshot eyes or small, red facial spots?
Experience disorientation after being alone?
Have sheets, belts, neckties, scarves, T-shirts or ropes
tied to bedroom furniture or doorknobs, or found knotted on the
Mention choking games, showing curiosity about asphyxiation
or have a history of Internet searches about choking games?
Have wear marks on his or her furniture legs?
If you see any of these signs, it may be something else, but
definitely start talking to your teenagers about the dangers
associated with dabbling in such risky behaviors. There are many
videos describing the dangers of playing this game on Google and
YouTube. Schedule a time to talk with your kids. My friend Sandra
was one of the best parents I’d ever had. She didn’t deserve to lose
Kalen because she’d done everything right. Don’t suffer the same
kind of heartbreak as Sandra did. Talk to your kids today about the
dangers of playing the choking game.