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Deadly 'choking game' game your kids might be playing
Published Thursday, March 7, 2013 4:06PM EST Last Updated Thursday, March 7, 2013 4:14PM EST
Ever since Annette Latouf's son, Justin, died in July 2011 of the ‘choking game,’ the Windsor mom has been second guessing herself as a parent.
"We had no clue,” says Latouf. “I didn't know there's this game kids are playing."
But her eyes were quickly opened up when she looked at her son’s computer and found he had researched the game on the night he died.
"Did my son want to die? No. Did he think he would die? No," she says.
Win Harwood, a Windsor parenting expert , says research has shown that children as young as nine years old are experimenting with this game in spite of the risks.
“It is voluntary suffocation, to get a high," says Harwood.
The choking game, also known as blackout, cloud nine or flatliner, can cause seizures, blindness, paralysis and in the worst cases, death.
Harwood says the part of the human brain which assesses risk is not fully developed in a teenage brain. "They're looking for highs, from risk. It’s not the adult brain," says Harwood.
Even though videos showing tweens and teens doing the choking game either in groups or alone, Harwood says parents should talk to their kids about it.
"Kids can handle the information better than we can," says Harwood.
And Harwood has some tips for how parents can approach the subject with their kids, no matter how old they are.
"First of all, be calm. Talk about it like the nose on your face. Don't exaggerate the facts at all," she says.
Harwood says the goal should never be to control your children "because you can't."
Dr. Paul Bradford, a trauma physician at Hotel Dieu Grace Hospital in Windsor, agrees it’s imperative parents talk to their kids, even if it can be difficult.
"If there's something we can do to alter a behaviour,” says Bradford. “It’s our duty to get that message out."
Bradford adds parents can either have a serious conversation, or have to hear the worst news from doctors like him.
"We deal with devastated families a lot," he says.
Latouf, for her part, says it’s tough to talk about the loss of her son. But she does it every day.
"I would rather talk and save someone's life than keep quiet," says Latouf.
Latouf feels schools should start teaching kids about the risks like the choking game within the school curriculum. She says far too many children have died around the world from playing this game.
"There's a mom in Sudbury whose son died playing this. For every death she hears about, she puts another bead on a necklace. That string is over six feet long," says Latouf.