We often read about dangerous ‘crazes’ online, from Blue Whale, to eating Tide Pods to the ‘Choking Game’ – and studies show hundreds of kids have died as a result of ‘playing’.
The ‘Choking Game’ has now been going on a long time, some reports suggest since the 1930s – and it’s probably happening still right up until today as you read this.
In the US alone, 82 people – aged between six and 19 – died as a result of the ‘game’ between 1995 and 2007, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP).
@MLA_Karen is supporting her friend Kerri Workman who bravely stood up and spoke at the Women Talk event about how she and her husband Malcolm lost their 11 year old son Bryce to the Choking Game. pic.twitter.com/QQFS9p5thX
— yycmackaynosehill (@mackaynosehill) February 22, 2018
Most of the victims were boys between the ages of 11 and 16, according to a 2008 centre report.
Then, it was reported more than 1,400 children and teenagers died from ‘accidental hanging and strangulation’ from 2000 to 2015.
TIME says that is just 500 less than the number of children and teenagers who died in accidental shootings in the same time period.
And advocates fear the problem ‘may be worsening’.
“Hundreds of families have endured that same nightmare. In the US alone, 82 children between the ages of 6 & 19 died after playing the Choking Game between 1995 and 2007, the most recent year with data available, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “ Time
— Boz (@bzbx) March 12, 2018
So what exactly is the ‘Choking Game’?
Well, it’s pretty much what it says on the tin, you choke yourself until you ‘lose consciousness’ in a bid to get a sense of ‘euphoria’ when you finally allow yourself to breathe.
Or – trying to get high through temporary asphyxiation, essentially.
It’s often also referred to as the ‘Pass-Out Challenge, ‘Flatliner’, or ‘Space Monkey’, and sadly, you only need to take yourself to YouTube to find thousands of videos showing people actually ‘taking part’.
Sharron Grant started a site called Games Adolescents Shouldn’t Play (GASP) when her 12-year-old son Jesse died in 2005.
He’d been playing the ‘Choking Game’ with a rubber computer cord and he accidentally suffocated.
Another victim, Garrett Pope Jr, was just a ‘normal 11-year-old kid’ from South Carolina, but his life was cut short when he strangled himself as part of the fatal trend – accidentally killing himself.
In a heartbreaking Facebook post Garrett’s dad said:
He was our oldest son, a 6th grade student at the middle school, had just started to play football on Tuesday night, wanted to go to Clemson, was funny, smart, and an amazing son to us and brother to his siblings.
We do not know where Garrett learned this [the choking game], but the logical source would be from other kids in school, or in our neighbourhood.
Please know that his senseless death was not intentional. He took this terrible ‘game’ too far. My family has never felt pain like this before, and we don’t anyone else to go through what we are going through. Please talk about this with your kids, and do everything you can to prevent a similar tragedy.
Another victim, Erik Robinson was just 12 years old when – in April 2010 – he accidentally strangled himself.
Erik had just come home from a weekend retreat with the Scouts, when he tied a rope around his neck and hung it from the pull-up bar in the kitchen of his family’s two-bedroom apartment in Santa Monica.
Sadly, there are victims in the UK, too.
In June 2016, a 12-year-old boy from Birmingham, Karnel Haughton, died while on half-term break from school playing the so called ‘game’.
Karnel is thought to have been playing the ‘game’ in his bedroom when he lost consciousness, before being discovered by his mum Gemma a short while later.
Jack Pickles, 14, died while playing the game in his bedroom in Todmorden, West Yorkshire, in February, the year before that.
His mum, Selina Booth, said she believed he’d copied it after seeing it online, and went on the Jeremy Kyle Show to tell her story and highlight the dangers.
In December 2017, YouTube announced it would increase efforts to ‘stop the spread of potentially dangerous videos’ by employing more moderators to take down videos threatening child safety, including Choking Game footage.
A spokeswoman for YouTube told TIME:
We work to quickly remove flagged videos that violate our policies.
On December 4, last year, YouTube said it had reviewed ‘nearly two million videos’ for violent, extreme content and removed ‘more than 150,000’ of those videos since June.
Hopefully more will continue to be done to stop these ‘games’ from happening.