Sometimes referred to as the "fainting game," Erik Robinson was using a form of self-induced loss of blood flow to the brain -- something kids accomplish generally by tying a belt or rope around their necks and waiting for the tingly (sometimes orgasmic) sensation.
The problem comes when the kids, who no longer have control over their bodies, pass out and can't release the restriction on their necks.
The CDC expects deaths from these types of activities have been a problem for years, but they've only begun tracking them in earnest recently -- and many are still being marked as suicides. As it is, the CDC attributes 82 deaths to the choking game and other strangulation activities during 1995 to 2007. Of that, most victims were adolescent males aged 11 to 16 years.
Add to that Erik Robinson, the sixth-grader from Santa Monica, who accidentally hanged himself in his family's kitchen.
Advocacy group GASP (Games Adolescents Shouldn't Play) recommends parents keep their eyes out for the following signs of the choking game:
- Any suspicious mark on the side of the neck, sometimes hidden by a turtleneck, scarf, or permanently turned-up collar.
- Changes in personality, such as overtly aggressive or agitated.
- Any kind of strap, rope, or belt lying around near the child for no clear reason -- and the child attempts to elude questions about such objects.
- Headaches (sometimes excruciatingly bad ones), loss of concentration, flushed face.
- Blood-shot eyes or any other noticeable signs of eye stress.
- A thud in the bedroom or against a wall -- meaning a fall in cases of solitary practice.
- Any questions about the effects, sensations, or dangers of strangulation.