Stupid Resident Tricks: Our students are playing some dangerous “games”


I’m not sure whether the cause is boredom, curiosity, the need for a thrill, a natural desire to push boundaries, or just plain old-fashioned peer pressure, but the number of incident reports coming across my desk lately that chronicle really poor choices by residents has risen significantly over the past couple of years. If you’re an “old-timer” like I am, you may not even know to be on the lookout for some of these new “games” residents are playing. I thought it might be worthwhile to share a few here on the blog with other housing folks. If we and our resident assistants can be on the lookout for some of these things, maybe we can help prevent something from going horribly wrong. Here, in no particular order, are a few of the dangerous activities I’ve noticed our residents engaging in recently:


OK – I said these weren’t in any particular order, but this is one of the most concerning. Seemingly harmless, planking involves lying face-down in an unexpected place and then uploading a picture to Facebook or a blog to share with the world. Unfortunately, there seems to be a contest mentality associated with the activity and students try to outdo each other with photos taken in increasingly dangerous locations like rooftops, escalators, and balcony rails. We had a resident survive a planking-related, 7-story fall from a balcony earlier this year.

Cinnamon Game

The challenge to eat something unusual has been romanticized by reality shows and even encouraged by seemingly harmless shows like America’s Funniest Videos. The Cinnamon Game, though, can be dangerous. A Michigan student was hospitalized after attempting to swallow a mouthful of cinnamon, according to tells us that the challenge is so dangerous because you don’t have enough saliva in your mouth at any given time to break down that much cinnamon and the spice also contains coumarin, which can cause liver damage. Check out this video if you’d like to see what can happen when this game goes awry: YouTube star GloZell.

Eyeballing (and other Alternative Alcohol Absorption Techniques)

I’ve seen several reports of “eyeballing,” where folks tilt back their heads and have a shot of vodka poured onto their eye, which allegedly gives a quick buzz when the alcohol enters the bloodstream through veins at the back of the eye. Not only does the idea sound not-so-smart, but doctors are concerned about possible long-term damage to the sensitive eye area, like scarring and impaired vision. We’ve probably all seen the media reports relating to other “alternative” methods of alcohol absorption. As a profession, we need to be vigilant and continue to refine our alcohol education efforts to help students understand the dangers of these activities.

Salt and Ice Challenge

This involves wetting the skin, pouring salt on top and then pushing down on it with an ice cube until the participant can no longer take the pain. Apparently, this can cause actual burns on the skin. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that a Pittsburgh resident received second-degree cold injuries on his back after trying out the stunt he and his twin brother had seen on YouTube and Facebook.

Unusual Substance Abuse

I’ve read various media reports about students abusing Datura Flower, Purple Drank, Synthetic Marijuana, and even Hand Sanitizer. I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface here, but it’s important to stay on top of the latest substance abuse trends in order to spot potential problem behavior with students.


Borrowing Money

I know, this really doesn’t fit into the “game” category, but it’s certainly another disturbing trend with students. Whether in the form of credit cards, payday advances, or student loans, student debt is on the rise and students continue to make poor choices when borrowing money. Perhaps this is another blog post, though …


As students continue to find different (and more creative) ways to push boundaries, I think it’s important that we share what we’ve learned with each other. Let’s continue this discussion here … I’d really be interested in hearing from others who have noticed similar trends and also from those who might have intervention/prevention strategies to share.