A 13-year-old boy in the Canadian province of New Brunswick is the latest victim of what officials call the “choking game.”
New Brunswick’s Child Death Review Committee revealed on Monday that the boy, whose name and date of death were not revealed, died of asphyxia due to accidental neck compression in what the coroner ruled as an accident.
The choking game involves children and teenagers trying to stop their own breathing as a way to induce a temporary euphoric state, Time reported.
The New Brunswick committee recommended children in middle or high school be educated about the dangers of the choking game, and police “promote awareness of such a dangerous activity,” CTV News reported.
That’s something that Utah resident Celestia Muai supports.
Muai’s son, Tua, died in May at only 12-years-old, while playing the choking game, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
“I spent Mother’s Day planning my son’s funeral, writing his obituary, instead of having breakfast or flowers or ‘I love you mom,’” Muai said, according to KSTU.
“Try to imagine what it would be like and multiply that by infinity and that’s kind of what it’s like … there’s no words,” she said.
Muai now spreads the word about her son’s death to help save others.
“I hope that people see the pictures of my son, and my family, and know that this is real,” she said.
Muai said that she fears social media is spreading the choking game, leading to an upswing in incidents.
“He didn’t break any laws. He was just playing a game and he didn’t think things through,” Muai said. “He just didn’t think things through all the way.”
One expert said the inability to understand consequences is why young boys are vulnerable to thinking they can play the game without getting hurt.
“The ability to think about and anticipate the future consequences and act is something that develops gradually,” said Temple University psychology professor Laurence Steinberg. “An 11-year-old, first of all, doesn’t realize what could happen. And even if he could realize what could happen, he’s probably not imagining it could happen to him.”
Federal data on the choking game shows that between 1995 and 2007, 82 children between the ages of 6 and 19 died due to the game. The Centers for Disease Control said most were boys between 11 and 16.
More than 1,400 young people died from accidental hanging and strangulation between 2000 and 2015, the CDC said.
In a March report, Time magazine estimated there were 36 million YouTube videos showing some variant of how to play the choking game.
Some schools are trying to fight back. In Iron County, Utah, the school district added information about the game to its health curriculum, said Rich Nielsen, Iron County School District’s director of secondary education.
“My take on it is you have to provide accurate information,” he said. “The kids, inevitably with our social media world, they are going find out information. We’d rather it be accurate information in a controlled environment, rather than online at night with nobody around.”
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