Art Linkletter used to have a television program, back in the previous millennium, called "House Party." One of the favorite features of his show was a bit called "Kids Say the Darndest Things."
Some of you may remember it. It was a simple premise, really, in which Linkletter exploited the innocence of children by setting up his camera in day care centers, kindergarten classes and primary schools - or maybe he actually brought the kids into his studio - and asking them questions about mostly adult situations.
The results were a series of cute and funny quips and quotes that endeared Linkletter to an entire generation of folks and gave the viewers a chuckle or two and a warm fuzzy feeling.
I am being facetious, of course, about the exploitation of children part. I watched the show every week and loved it. I even bought the book and steal from it frequently.
Given the nature of television today and the success of so-called reality TV, I'm surprised no one has rejuvenated Linkletter's concept - although they tell me Bill Cosby did actually try it for a while, between Jell-O commercials. Art's show would have been a perfect fill-in during the recently resolved writers strike. Kids really did say the darndest things, and probably still do.
But the things kids say pale in comparison to the things they do - especially teens. Even Linkletter knew better than to stick a microphone in the face of a teenager. You don't know what they might say, or do, all in the name of conforming - or standing out, or seeking a thrill.
We've all known for a long time that kids are prone to fads and experimentation. They tell me there was a time when eating goldfish was popular, not to mention phone booth stuffing. Nowadays, the SPCA would be on a kid like white on rice for eating raw goldfish, and there are no more phone booths to stuff, so I understand the kids of today needing other things to do. I mean, you can't sit at a computer and stare at MySpace profiles 24/7, can you?
I can't say too much about silly fads, though. My generation ran nekkid and howled at the moon. We called it streaking. But streaking wasn't fatal. The latest fad can be.
According to the CDC in Atlanta, one of the latest fads among children and teens - all the way up to 19-year-olds - is something called the "Choking Game," which involves wearing a tight dog collar or wrapping a bungee cord around one's neck to cut off the blood flow to the brain.
Let me clue you in on something here. I am around kids all day, every day. Trust me, most of them need all the blood flowing to their brains that they can possibly get. But the reason the kids choke themselves is to experience the rush that occurs when the blood begins to flow back to the brain. That feeling has been described as a sensation akin to floating in space.
Who wouldn't want to float in space?
Kids and young teens are getting together and playing the choking game in groups - sometimes as large as 20 or more. It's a cheap thrill and you don't have to steal your folks' booze or make an illegal score with a dealer to participate. Kids are also playing the choking game alone, in the privacy and seclusion of their own rooms, which is even scarier. To be perfectly honest, the whole thing is downright stupid.
It is also dangerous - and deadly. It is so deadly that the CDC has issued a warning to parents to watch out for signs that their children may be involved in the "game" that has claimed a minimum of 82 lives so far. Most experts are certain that the official number is a mere fraction of the actual number, and Dr. Tom Andrew, a New Hampshire medical examiner, estimates that at least 100 deaths a year could be attributed to the activity.
One hundred kids a year whose lives could be saved.
We are losing enough kids in senseless traffic accidents, random acts of violence and stupidity. We shouldn't have to lose them to a ridiculous so-called "game."
So heads up out there, if you have kids or are around them. Here are some of the signs: Bloodshot eyes and bruised necks.
You'd think any parent would notice those things. You'd be surprised what parents don't notice.
Kids who play the game often complain of headaches and often seem disoriented, especially after spending time alone. The CDC also says that parents should check their kids' rooms, looking for knotted scarves or ropes or belts attached to doors or furniture.
Who would have thought we parents would have to worry about such things? But kids do the darndest things, and somebody has to be aware of what those things are.
Kind of makes you long for the days of Art Linkletter sitting 'round talking to toddlers, doesn't it?
Darrell Huckaby is an author and teacher in Rockdale County. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.