Some very risky student behaviour. Trigger warnings required?

A really daft and not actually that funny article on the satirical website the Onion back in 2015 in which a small child said “So Help Me God, I’m Going to Eat One of Those Multicolored Detergent Pods,” led to a recent spate of students finding hilarious ways bravely to eat washing capsules. Known as the Tidepod Challenge, it has resulted in many highly shared YouTube videos (which are rapidly taken down) of students consuming the multicoloured capsules.

Warning: Copying any of the spectacularly dim behaviour reported here would be a really dumb thing to do.

There has been a great deal of coverage of this, presumably because, despite the relatively small number of cases, it offers a representation of student behaviour which, unlike the rather tricky and highly political no platforming and grade inflation narratives, is a bit more entertaining and bonkers. Thus:

Yeah, snowflake students eh, can’t ingest poisonous chemicals without getting all ill and stuff and needing to go to hospital.

Most institutions seem to have taken the common sense approach to this of simply ignoring it but several have felt the need to advise their students not to be incredibly dumb. For example:

A university told its students that laundry detergent was for “clothes, not mouths” this week, in response to a baffling (and potentially deadly) social media challenge.
Boston’s Wentworth Institute of Technology sent an email Tuesday dissuading students from ingesting laundry detergent pods, as the “Tide pod challenge” emerges on social media and in news reports.
“Please remember — liquid laundry detergent packets are meant to clean clothes, not mouths,” wrote Amber Goulart, Wentworth’s coordinator of wellness education.

Beyond this, we had the St John Ambulance issuing advice and also the very serious Conversation where one author saw this as very much a story about millennials and noted:

What is different about today’s young people, though, is that they have the technology to record their stupidity for posterity, as well as a desire to push boundaries and attract viewers to the content they post online. This is the “attention economy” in action, whereby attention is an increasingly scarce resource, which users are desperate to gain as ever greater amounts of content are put online.

before moving on to Foucault.

Of course the main challenge for students in the UK and in many other parts of the world is that those lovely people at Procter & Gamble don’t sell Tidepods in our country (unless you are prepared to pay silly money to import them via an online retailer). Other similar products are available (I’m not going to list them) if you are really determined to poison yourself but I’m not sure many institutions will be changing their Codes of Discipline or student welfare briefing documents to address. Or am I wrong? Are there in fact loads of other universities and colleges which have followed Wentworth Institute of Technology in advising their students against eating poison?

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