Choking Game: Is It The Next Blue Whale?

The Internet is full of dangerous challenges that lure teens and after the deadly Blue Whale, now it’s the Choking Game. Parents need to be aware to prevent kids falling prey

By Shashwathi Sandeep

Choking Game: Is It The Next Blue Whale?

Thirteen-year-old Gaurang Dalvi, a high school student in Mumbai, was found hanging at his residence. Initially, the death was attributed to academic pressure. It took a while for his parents to realise that it was an online game gone horribly wrong. The ‘game’ was a social media challenge called the ‘Choking Game’. This was way back in 2007, but the deadly game is back and claiming lives of teenagers all over the world once again.

No one can forget the havoc that the Blue Whale Challenge brought with it. “The game was a devastating one... once you enter it, you would not be able to come out,” wrote 19-year-old Vigesh in his suicide note, just before falling to a fatal death. Not shocking, considering that a Google Trends report for the last 12 months showed that India has seen the highest number of searches related to the Blue Whale Challenge in the world!

The Choking Game is a re-entrant in this category, after it first appeared in 2005. In this ‘game’, also known as the knockout challenge and the fainting game, children and adolescents – sometimes alone or in groups – try to strangle themselves, getting a "rush of euphoria" while regaining consciousness. The goal is to restrict blood flow to the brain and reach the point or lose consciousness.

Here is a lowdown on why teens are taking up such dangerous challenges, the consequences and how you could help your teen:

Why do they do it?

“Adolescents may experience severe psychological distress and a disruption of their usual conduct. Teens who become addicted to or take up such dangerous games may suffer from several emotional and personal problems. When they feel that their feelings are being invalidated by most, the difficulties of their life fade into the background as their attention becomes completely focused on the game challenges. Despite being dangerous in nature, these games become a quick fix to wash away troubling feelings,” explains Akanksha Pandey, Consultant Clinical Psychologist, Fortis Healthcare, Bengaluru.

Teenage is a time when there is a lot going on in life and youngsters go through a myriad of emotions. Shailaja Shyamsukha, experiential educator and a psychologist, says, “At this phase of their life, teens are curious of the unknown and want to escape reality. Such challenges give them a high.”

Who is affected?

“The adolescents who suffer from interpersonal difficulties, social phobia, low self- esteem, lack of self-confidence, depression, anxiety, loneliness and peer pressure, may turn to virtual relationships as a substitute for the missing real-life connection and sense of belonging,” says Akanksha.

Factors that influence a teen to take up an online challenge:

  • The influence of Social Media
  • Knowledge about the game
  • Availability and accessibility to the game
  • Peer pressure
  • Self-challenge and risk-taking attitude
  • To prove one's own self
  • Curiosity to get involved in the loop
  • A sense of well-being when engaged in the game
  • Inability to stop indulging in the practice
  • Neglecting family and friends

What are the consequences?

The consequences are many and sometimes fatal. Kashish Chhabria, a counseling psychologist, says, “If they pass the challenge, they get the urge to do it more often, not knowing that they may not be so lucky the next time around. If they fail, they lose total confidence to do anything in life; either way, it's dangerous.”

So, as parents, you need to be prepared for the worst. Alen Hilary, a Consultant Clinical Psychologist, lists out some dos and don'ts: 

  • Have a healthy relationship with your kids
  • Embrace them frequently
  • Spend quality time with your kids
  • Give them enough privacy within your monitoring limits
  • Have a good relationship with your child’s immediate close friends
  • Check on their academic progress regularly and consult their academic mentors periodically,
  • Keep an eye on their friend circle
  • If teens are found to be depressed, get professional help
  • Help solve their problems and make them feel strong
  • Help them inculcate good values and goals in life

He also gives tips for parents who suspect that their teen might be engaging in such activities:

  • Do not make it a big issue, rather handle it very diplomatically
  • Express your love and care
  • Make them feel loved
  • Educate them about the negative effects of such challenges
  • Engage them in activities like sports, reading and travel
  • Make active use of parental control measures in your gadgets and Internet connections
  • Uninstall such games and deny access to dangerous websites
  • Eventually divert their mind from the game
  • Encourage them to spend time with real friends 

Online games and challenges suck children into a never-ending abyss of gloom and danger. Love and understanding from parents can help them get back to their happy selves.

Hope you liked this article. To get expert tips and read interesting articles on a wide variety of parenting topics, subscribe now to our magazine.