The choking, or pass-out, game cuts off oxygen to the brain. Kids do it to themselves because they're bored or curious, without realizing the danger.
But, this game's not child's play. At least a dozen kids across the U.S. have died of self-inflicted asphyxiation in the past year.
"It's just like driving fast," said Ann Landes, a guidance counselor at Columbia's Hickman High School. "They know that sometimes accidents happen, but they don't think it's going to happen to them."
But it happened to Kimberly Wilson, an energetic, soon-to-be sophomore at Veritas High School in Lawrence, Kan.
Her parents say they had no idea.
"We were a very close family. We did not know," said Tim Wilson, Kimberly's father. "There again we're coming out because we did not know this thing existed. We didn't know it was out there."
But , it's been out there for generations.
"I think we started playing it when I was about, I'd say, 10 years old, and I'm the oldest," said Alex Struve, now an MU senior. "And we kept on playing it until I was about 14, about four years."
The deadly game often starts as a group activity. But the real danger happens when kids get addicted.
"Indication says that addiction leads to doing it alone," said Tim Wilson. "And doing it alone is when you'll probably, when it's most dangerous. So Kimberly was alone when she died."
When kids do it alone, they use everyday objects to get high. Kimberly's mom found her with a bicycle chain around her neck.
"At first, I thought she was playing around, because she played around a lot," said Carol Wilson. "And, very quickly, I saw that there was a problem. And then I just thought that it was something foolish that she was doing and I felt like she was tricked. That she wouldn't do something that would harm herself."
Unfortunately, there are few warning signs. Parents should make sure their kids don't spend too much time alone. Parents also should watch for bloodshot eyes and strange bruises or marks around a child's neck. Even if kids survive the choking game, there are other dangers.
"I did it at work once when I was 16," said Struve. "They said they were going to catch me, and they didn't catch me, and I ended up falling on the tile floor and busting my eye open."
Cutting off oxygen to the brain can also lead to severe brain damage.
"I think parents are the point person and the schools can support that through education," said Landes.
Education about a game that's not worth playing.
"It seemed like she died for something that could have been avoided," added Tim Wilson. "That if the dangers were known, we could have talked about it. And that's something that we'll just never be able to get back."
Authorities have recorded no recent deaths in the KOMU viewing area because of the choking game. But, records aren't clear if it's killed kids in the past. We do know this activity is probably happening in your community.
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