I can remember the exhilaration of the air rushing through my hair from the open window of the bus as I rode to school. At the ripe age of 8, I was introduced to the choking game that sunny day by a boy in the seat next to me.
It seemed so exciting. After a series of deep breaths, I placed my hands around my own neck, and made myself briefly pass out. When I came to only seconds later, my head felt fuzzy. A few other kids on the bus sitting near us tried it, too. Luckily, we all arrived at school that morning unscathed after playing such a risky game. Little did we know that we were actually cutting off the oxygen supply to our brains through strangulation for a quick high.
These types of dangerous games are typically played by adolents but a CDC study analyzed 82 probable Choking Game deaths nationwide over 12 years. The study found that the average age of kids who died was 13, but within those who died, some were as young as 6 and others were as old as 19.
The scary fact is, I was a good kid from a good home and I was still enticed to try the choking game. It can happen to any child at any time and that is why parents must be aware of the various dangerous games that kids are pressuring each other to play.
Another precarious activity that young people are doing is the Cinnamon Challenge. The goal is to swallow a spoonful of cinnamon without washing it down with water. Hilarity seems to follow as contenders are often hit by an extreme couching fit. It may sound harmless but there can be serious consequences such as choking, pneumonia, or even lung collapse.
The challenge is so popular that it recently prompted the American Association of Poison Control Centers to issue a news release urging parents to talk to their teens about the dangers associated with the Cinnamon Challenge. According to the release, there were 139 calls placed to Poison Centers about teen exposure to cinnamon in the first three months of 2012.
If something as common as a spice can be a risk, then it comes as no surprise that an innocent game using marshmallows called Chubby Bunny can be dangerous too. The objective is to stuff as many marshmallows as possible into one's mouth until they can no longer say the words "Chubby Bunny." This obviously puts the player at risk for choking or suffocation.
Although my children are young right now and it seems daunting to talk to them about the risks of playing dangerous games like these, I make it a point to talk to my seven-year-old about resisting peer pressure. We often have open dialogues about what he could say if he felt pressured to do something he knew wasn't safe.
I know that I cannot be with him all the time to protect him from playing these types of games with other children. My hope is to raise him to have confidence so that he will have the skills to resist the lure of danger.
I didn't realize how lucky I was when I stepped off the bus unharmed that morning log ago. We owe it to our children to be aware of the seemingly innocent pressures they may face out in the big bad world and to give them the skills to walk away without taking the challenge.
Were you aware that kids are playing these games? How can we have safe conversations with our children about unsafe topics? Do you talk to your children about peer pressure? Please leave your thoughts and experiences in the comments.