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School Introduces Choking Game Awareness After 4 Students Die

Short & Sweet

After four of its students accidentally died from the "choking game," Utah's Iron County School District is the first in the nation to introduce awareness curriculum about the very dangerous adolescent pastime.

The Lowdown

What is this awful sounding game you ask? You may have known it by a different name growing up: "blackout" or perhaps "the knockout challenge." But now, the game is back under a new name and growing in popularity.

For the game, kids cut off the air supply of a friend, or themselves, until they feel a rush of euphoria. Unfortunately, some who experiment with this grim form of entertainment wait too long. Asphyxiation can lead to irreversible brain damage, and even death.

"It's amazing how many have played the game or know others who have," Jennifer Wood, the Iron County School District's director of secondary-education alternative programs, told Yahoo Parenting.

In fact, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, approximately 5 to 11 percent of children and adolescents have participated in the choking game. Most of the deaths occur between 4 and 6 p.m. when parents are still at work.

The Utah school district that lost four of its own hopes education about the dangers of the practice will stem the growing tide of trying it at parties or alone. Yes, experts say teens are attempting this high-stakes challenge at home by themselves and then posting photos to social media. The role of Facebook and other social sharing sites has been blamed for the rise in cases.

The Upshot

Parents, be on the lookout for references to the choking game on your child's Facebook page or on other social media sites he or she frequents. Det. Mike Bleak of Cedar City, Utah, who introduced the school district to the prevention program, recommends looking out for these warning signs:

  • Marks or bruising around the neck
  • Bloodshot eyes or other unexplainable, chronic eye problems, which result from oxygen being cut off to the brain
  • Frequent, bad headaches
  • Sudden irritability or hostility
  • Ropes, scarves and belts fastened to odd places like doorknobs

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