Fidget Spinners: Harmless Fad or Mega Distraction?

Fidget spinners. You’ve seen them practically everywhere. The small plastic gadgets don’t do much, but they’ve completely overtaken the toy industry.

Fidget spinners were initially marketed as a sensory toy for children on the autism spectrum and those with ADHD or sensory processing disorder. Within days, though, the hand-held gadget experienced a wild surge in popularity and became a must-have for every child and teenager across the county – and plenty of adults, too.

The basic fidget spinner is built with three prongs centered around a circle. Flick a prong, and the triangle shape becomes a blur, almost like a ceiling fan. The toys are manufactured by several companies and are sold virtually everywhere – airports, gas stations, grocery stores and, of course, toy stores.

If you’re wondering what the great appeal behind the fidget spinner is, you’re not alone. Just like you, many parents are scratching their heads in bewilderment. After all, the toys don’t make much noise; they don’t beep or flash or do anything too exciting. And yet, the fidget spinner and its cousin, the fidget cube, now dominate 49 of the top 50 rankings on Amazon. They’ve all but invaded classrooms and hundreds of videos have already been posted on YouTube by self-proclaimed “fidget experts” demonstrating dozens of tricks that can be done with the small toy.

And it’s not just kids – the fad has spread to adults, as well. Fidget spinners are showing up in college classrooms, on train rides and at the workplace. In fact, Forbes magazine has already named the fidget spinner the official office toy of 2017.

While toy fads constantly come and go, there hasn’t been a fad of this magnitude since the hula hoop craze of 1958, when an estimated 25 million were sold in just a few months.

Parents and educators are on the fence about this fad, though. The price tag is conservative and it keeps the kids occupied, but some claim it’s a tremendous classroom distraction that should be banned.

While the novelty of the fidget spinner will fade with time, it’s anyone’s guess if they will become a classic like the Rubik’s Cube, or soon lay forgotten in a dusty corner of the playroom, never to be played with again.

Here’s what you’ll want to know about the latest fad:

1.) No scientific backing

Fidget spinners have been marketed as a stress-reliever and a self-care tool for ADHD and autism. Parents of diagnosed children have eagerly purchased these toys in the hopes that they will help their child concentrate in class and perhaps alleviate some of their symptoms.

It’s important to note, though, that there has not been any scientific evidence backing this claim. While some might find that they do provide temporary relief from symptoms, they should never be used in place of therapy or medication.

2.) Choose cheaply

One of the biggest selling factors of this fad is the modest price tag – most go for just a couple bucks. Like every popular fad, though, opportunists have been quick to cash in on the craze. The market boasts luxury spinners with flashing lights, or with more ball bearings to supposedly guarantee a longer spin time. These deluxe versions come with a price tag of a few hundred dollars or more.

Kids are thrilled with the cheaper versions, though, and they fulfill their purpose perfectly. Don’t get sucked into shelling out big bucks, because this fad may be over in a few weeks. By then, your child may never look at a spinner again.

3.) Classroom chaos

A lone spinner produces a low, almost indistinct whir. Multiply that by 25, though, and you’ve got quite a racket. Now imagine trying to teach over that din.

Fidget spinners might look like the perfect classroom toy; they’re small enough to fit under the desk, and make hardly any noise. But some teachers and principals have found them to be too distracting, and many schools have banned them completely. Aside from the collective hum of the gadgets spinning, the toys often go clattering to the floor or are used to demonstrate tricks, further adding to their distraction.

Other teachers don’t mind the noise, though, and claim they support concentration while providing a legitimate sensory aid for those who need it. Make sure your child’s teacher is OK with the fidget spinner being used in the classroom before your child brings it to school.

4.) Smartphone substitute

While no scientific studies have backed this claim, many posit that the fidget spinner’s popularity is linked to its vibrating motion, which mimics that of a smartphone. They theorize that the toy serves as a salve for the smartphone-addicted child, who loves the feel of a screen throbbing.

Whether this is true or not remains to be proven, but if it’s a choice between a phone and a fidget spinner, remember that the toy won’t mess with your child’s attention span or internal clock the way screen time does, making it the better choice.

Here to stay, or gone tomorrow? It’s anyone’s guess. Meanwhile, though, make smart, informed choices about the latest toy fad.

Your Turn: Do you think fidget spinners should be allowed in classrooms? Why or why not? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

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