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Health & Parenting

7 Dangerous Games Parents Must Know About

The Cinnamon Challenge…the Choking Game…are your kids playing these high-risk “games?”
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WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Many parents warn their children about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. Fewer parents, though, know that they should also warn against so-called "games" that are so risky they can lead to injury or death.

Teens frequently keep details about these games under wraps. Parents often don't hear about them until someone in the community is rushed to the emergency room or dies.

John Santelli, president of the American Society of Adolescent Health and a Columbia University pediatrics professor, says, "Adolescence is, developmentally, a time when young people experiment with cigarettes and other behaviors that aren't so smart for their health. Some of the consequences can be pretty tragic with these dangerous games."

Boys and  girls both participate, to some degree. "Boys tend to take more risks, as do teens in middle school, although kids of any age may try," says pediatrician Jennifer Shu, MD. "They usually happen in groups where there is peer pressure."

For the safety of your own kids, it's important to make yourself aware of the details of these games.

1. Choking Game

This deadly "game" involves cutting off the oxygen supply to the brain through strangulation for a brief high. Some teens have done this using their hands or a noose either alone or in groups.

"There's no room for a learning curve," Alfred Sacchetti, chief of emergency medicine at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center in Camden, N.J., says, "because the very first time, you can die."

Sacchetti, a spokesperson for the American College of Emergency Physicians, says, "The real danger with this is actually getting it right the first time. Now your impression is, 'I'm smarter than those people who killed themselves. They aren't as good at it as me.' You think, 'I can push it farther; I can set my noose tighter or longer. I bet I can get even higher.'"

A recent CDC study analyzed 82 probable Choking Game deaths nationwide over a period of 12 years. The study found that the average age of kids who died was 13, and those who died ranged in age from 6 to 19. Nearly all of them (96%) were playing the game alone when they died, even if they'd first played it with a group of friends. And 87% of those who died were boys. Most of the parents cited by the study (93%) said that they hadn't heard of the Choking Game until their children died.

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