Auckland girls’ school warns parents of ‘danger’ of students’ social media blackout game
A top Auckland girls’ school contacted parents last week to warn them of the dangers of a game students have been playing and posting to social media in which they deprive themselves of oxygen and blackout.
Footage of Westlake Girls High School students fainting, and in one case appearing to go into a fit, after playing the game has prompted calls to parents from the school on Auckland’s North Shore.
Westlake Girls High School marketing and communications manager Christina Pollock confirmed the school was aware of the TikTok stunts and had made calls to parents last week.
“Yes, we are aware of these two TikTok videos and have spoken with the students about the danger of their actions, and also with their parents,” Pollock said.
The Herald has found three such videos on TikTok of groups of Westlake Girls High students performing the stunts in the school yard.
Another video of a similar stunt from a boys’ school the Herald has been unable to identify has also recently appeared on social media.
Three boys are filmed collapsing on the ground after performing the stunt, while their classmates laugh in the background.
“He’s out, he’s out,” one student yells as another pushes on his chest. The classmates then let go of him and the student falls sideways onto the dirt ground.
“We murdered someone,” one student shouts jokingly.
The boy then wakes up a few seconds later on the ground smiling.
While some of the stunts filmed and posted to TikTok appear to be fake, with students just acting as if they’d passed out, several of the clips look real.
In 2018, US publication Time published a feature article entitled: “Kids Are Playing the ‘Choking Game’ to Get High. Instead, They’re Dying”.
The article reports that between 1995 and 2007, 82 children between the ages of 6 and 19 died after playing the “choking game” in the US.
In 2015, the Herald reported on a 10-year-old boy from Glenbrae School in Glen Innes who had played the “blackout” game with older students and badly hit his head. The child needed medical attention from a doctor and was plagued by dizziness and headaches after the incident.
While the version of the prank in which New Zealand high school students can be seen playing in the clips posted to social media in past weeks appears less risky than other incidents internationally, one of New Zealand’s top GPs says they are still fraught with danger.
Medical director of the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners, Dr Bryan Betty, said he is aware of the games being played in New Zealand.
“I’d just comment in general about this type of thing. It does periodically happen, especially with younger people. It’s highly risky because it can go wrong and lead to death, and that’s the baseline here. It does lead to tragic outcomes and it’s just something that shouldn’t be engaged in.”
Betty said there can be a brief euphoric high after the person recovers consciousness.
“But any kind of activity that leads to a blackout is potentially dangerous. That can lead to a myriad of problems: people falling to the ground and knocking their head, knocking themselves out. Anything that stops oxygen to the brain is potentially dangerous.
“In this particular situation if they passed out in a faint-like situation then obviously you’re out of control, and obviously hitting your head would be a real concern, and causing some sort of brain damage.”
Betty said he had never personally treated a young person injured through these games.
“But what we do see is these things tend to go through waves, especially through social media and that’s the problem. They tend to spread very quickly. I think that’s a real issue.”
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