The fidget toy craze resulted in wild health claims and bans in schools. Both the benefits and problems are overstated.
by BJ Towe on Tuesday, June 12, 2018
Do fidget spinners — those multi-pronged, flat toys that spin between the thumb and a finger — really help kids focus, as the advertising says?
The Marketing Spin
The marketing hype spins almost as fast as the devices themselves: Reduces stress! Relieves boredom, ADHD, anxiety! Quit your bad habits! Keep focused at school! Many marketers also claim that fidget spinners help children with other issues, including Asperger’s Syndrome and autism.
Dr. Daniel Pelzer, a Pediatrician with The Iowa Clinic, says, "Fidget spinners may help some kids with concentration, but there’s no scientific research supporting this assertion."
While some studies have shown that physical movement helps kids with ADHD maintain alertness during cognitive tasks, "Fidgeting is defined as 'moving about restlessly, nervously or impatiently.' The key word is moving,' stresses Dr. Pelzer "That means moving the arms, legs or entire body. Spinning a toy in between two fingers hardly qualifies."
The device’s original creator, Catherine Hettinger, says she invented fidget spinners in 1993 as a distraction to keep kids out of trouble — not as a treatment for conditions like ADHD. In one article, she was reported saying the idea for fidget spinners emerged when she saw children in Israel throwing stones at police officers. Fidget spinners "started as a way of promoting peace," she said.
Too Much of a Good Thing
Novelist Paulo Coehlo famously said, "Every quality, taken to extremes, becomes a weakness." In many schools across the nation, fidget spinners have proven too good at their intended purpose — providing a distraction.
Fidget spinners have been called a nuisance that weakens the educational experience. They’ve even been called dangerous as kids’ tricks with the gadgets go haywire. As a result, throngs of educators have banned them from their classrooms and, as of summer 2017, principals in at least 11 states have banned them from their schools.
Should You Ban Fidget Spinners, Too?
"Although fidget spinners don’t belong in school, completely banning them from your home is probably not necessary," says Dr. Pelzer. "A fidget spinner is a toy, and not too different from the pencils we used to twirl in between our fingers, just for fun."
"For that, send them outside for a bike ride, a game of catch or anything that engages full body motion," he says. "60 minutes of physical activity is absolutely critical for the physical and mental well-being of every child."