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30 Sep, 2008 00:40

Deadly game takes children’s lives

An activity known as the ‘choking game’ is taking a grim toll among children. It involves them asphyxiating each other, causing them to faint.

Last year Irina Klepach found her 14-year-old son Anton choked to death. Police initially suspected suicide, but now they believe his friends may have killed him during a game.

One of Anton's friends Victor says that this type of pastime is very popular among the children in their town in Russia’s Far East. Children play it as a rite of passage.

With joy Victor explains the deadly rules: “Usually three people participate. The victim stands against the wall while the others make him faint – all this for a few seconds. Then we resuscitate him.”

The game is no stranger to children around the globe. An average of 250 teenagers a year fall victim to the choking game in the U.S.

But what is it that attracts children to this risky game?

“Children in general are inclined to violence,” said psychologist Olga Zhdanova, “Cruelty to animals, or even to their friends could be common because their understanding of life is not yet formed.”

Even teens that do well at school and are close to their families take part. Often they do it out of curiosity, not rebellion.

There are signs that parents can look out for: constant severe headaches, marks on the neck and raspy breath could be reason enough to speak to a child about the dangers.

There are several ways to keep a child away from unhealthy or dangerous activities. Aleksandr Bauman believes the best is to encourage a love of sport. This has led him to starting a fitness club where children can come and play free of charge.

“I had a difficult childhood myself and back then we did a lot of stupid things like the choking game. Now one of my goals is to take kids from the streets and channel their energy into something positive,” Aleksandr said.

Aleksandr, like many others, hope that seeking an adrenalin rush and respect through sport will help wipe out the more unconventional, and dangerous methods of self- expression in the minds of the teenagers.