Learn about THE CHOKING GAMEYou might find these details about my son's death uncomfortable to read, but if you love your child like so you know we did then I beg you to read on.
Kevin was experimenting with a very dangerous craze that has been invading our schools for YEARS. As parents, we know nothing about this craze but it is steadily growing in popularity amongst our kids. This dangerous fad is called THE CHOKING GAME. Even though we protected our son with all the emotional armor a parent can offer, someone got through to him. Someone told him it was ok to do this “GAME”. That someone helped kill my son.
I have been researching this "game" and I want to share my knowledge. By the time you finish reading this, you will know more than you did five minutes ago and can protect your children.
At least several hundred kids have died playing The Choking Game. Websites tell them exactly how to do it, and to avoid saying anythng to their parents, counselors or teachers. The websites further explain how to get or make the materials, how to clear the history on their computers so their parents won't find out, how to use code words like choke out, the game, spider monkey, spunky monkey, and so on. They even offer advice about where to do it, such as empty class rooms, bathrooms, dad’s garage, the basement.
In some cases, one of the “rules” of the game is that when they have a ”choking party” everyone has to play. If someone won’t play, they have to leave and are no longer considered part of that friendship circle. This peer pressure during the teen years is a very strong motivator that can drive a normal kid to do the most abnormal things. Kids are warned that if parents tell them the game is unsafe, to avoid listening because parents are not "cool enough to know". A preventative measure listed on one website, for example, is to take a necktie from dad, tie it to the doorknob to lock the door, sit in front of it and play itunes really loud ... and continue.
We learned 90% of the fatalities are boys because girls tend to participate in larger groups -- but it is deadly in either case. Two of the most shocking things we have found out are that most parents have never heard of it and if they did hear of it they didn’t listen long enough to find out what it was (or they believed that their kid would never do something like that). The other is that many schools do not want anyone to come and talk about it because they are afraid it might put ideas in their heads. TOO LATE! Schools and churches are the two most common places these kids learn about it. Approximately 25% of the game participants surveyed said that they do this do it at school regularly! One parent even told me about a church youth leader showing kids how to do the Choking Game at a church retreat. I can believe it, because I found a picture of a young man doing it at church camp, and that student later died trying it alone.
It is imperative that we as parents DEMAND that our schools include education about this activity just as they do with other risky behaviors.
One of my son's friends told me, ”One of the things that upsets me is adults think we are stupid. We are YOUNG but we are not STUPID. If adults want us to know the truth about something, tell us the truth about it. Tell us about this stuff BEFORE we are at a party somewhere having our friends pressure us into trying something that might hurt us. We probably don't know how dangerous something really is. It's better if we learn about it from our parents or our teachers than to find out in the back room of somebody’s house.”
We have made several presentations to schools, and the feedback from kids is exceptionally encouraging:
”Thank you Mr.Tork. I have done this before but I will never do it again now that I know it can kill me”
”Because you came to our school I now know what to look for and will say no if anybody tries to get me to do it.”
“I think you should come to our school every year and tell everyone from 6th grade up”.
Education is imperative to learning and the time to talk to your kids is now before someone (maybe your child) dies. It is time to bring this deadly craze out in the open.
If you have not been there already please follow the link to the DB foundation website. Under "Statistics", you will see a choice for "Victims". As you scroll through that list, you will see who is dying from this. You will see your child in those faces because those are the faces of every child everywhere.
Many parents will say ”My son/daughter knows better, so I don’t need to talk to them.” I would have assumed that too -- but the truth is they do NOT know better, and this is why: Their friends are telling them this is safe and fun because they see people doing it on the internet. They never hear otherwise, and we ASSUME that they will have enough common sense to “just figure it out”, but they don't. They are dying from it.
Another myth is that if we tell them about it they will be inspired to try it. WRONG. They probably already know about it, and that they DON'T know is the TRUTH.
In the year my son passed, there were another 58 suspected cases after his death -- and we believe we only hear of about 20% of the actual cases. That is too many deaths. ONE is too many.
If the education system wont tell your kids, it is up to us. As a parent who lost an amazing gifted involved child, I can tell you I really wish someone had told me or my kid about this BEFORE it was introduced to him as ”safe & fun”.
Fathers need to be willing to invade your child’s privacy. You need to monitor and talk to your children graphically. Spot check the history on the computers. TAKE IT OUT OF THEIR ROOMS IF IT IS IN THERE. You might even block YouTube so that if they need to go there they do it with you present. Don’t let them talk on chat lines even if it is in a “safe” game environment. They will not talk to you about this unless you start the conversation. Almost every teenage boy I talked to have said they know of it or have played it and would never be able to tell their parents for fear of getting in trouble. Like most of you, I did not know how deadly or widespread this activity was and I truly believed that my kids were safe. Surely the schools knew about this. Surely they talked about it. They talk about everything else?? I was wrong. They don't talk and may not even be aware.
The GASP web site states that the most effective tool against this are the kids talking to the families of those that have died. dont be one of those families! Kevin went to Issaquah high school here in Washington state. There were about 100-150 kids up there at his funeral. I believe that most of them are now pretty safe and if you read about the conversation I had with my son before he died, Kevin has saved those kids but what about next year, what about the kids that weren’t there,the ones that that didn’t know Kevin. They are in school today maybe doing it right now as I write this post! How do we reach them? We as parents need to go in force and DEMAND that our schools talk about this. TALK TO YOUR CHILDREN. SAY SOMETHING! TELL THEM THE TRUTH!!!
There is nothing I would not do to have just one more minute to tell my boy how proud I am of the man he was. To run my fingers through his hair, to see his whole body jiggle when he thought something was funny, to share a joke that only he and I got, to do just one more thing together as father and son. To ride our 4 wheelers around the yard JUST ONE MORE TIME! To one more time sit at the table late at night in the dark and just talk, to hear him say just one more time “I love you too dad”.
Please don’t go back to your lives and forget Kevin Tork. He would have sacrificed himself for any one of your children and never thought twice about it. Cherish every second you have with your child. Our world changed on Monday March 30th, 2009 at 6:37pm. Will yours' change? Will one of you be next? Let's work together and stop this deadly, fatal activity it takes your child.
Let me leave you with this: I had a customer email me about a conversation that took place in the back of her best friend's car. Her friends daughter was sitting with a friend and the friend said ”Let me show you this neat game I learned today. I put my hands around your neck and squeeze until you get dizzy. Its really fun and it feels good.” Both girls are 7 yrs old. So if you think it cant happen to your child ... think again.
Reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright 2011 Ken Tork