You’ve probably seen the kid next to you in class spinning a thing that looks like a miniature alien spaceship on his thumb and wondered what that was all about. Or maybe you’ve noticed a classmate secretly fiddling with a cube with buttons on it under the conference table. Maybe you’ve noticed that half the memes you see are about some weird spinning toy! These odd-shaped, oddly addictive objects — designed to let you channel extra energy into your fingers as you go about your day — are fidgets. And all of a sudden, it seems, they’re everywhere.
The new obsession can be compared with Pokémon Go or the hula hoops of generations past, but they are perhaps more than a simple toy. The idea that spinning, tapping, clicking, squeezing and bending may be able to increase your focus, relieve stress and alleviate symptoms like anxiety is their sales point.
“They can be very engaging,” says Katherine Isbister, who is studying the phenomenon. “There’s a certain kinesthetic characteristic that makes them feel good in the hand.” This means that the ability to be doing something with your hands means you stop fidgeting and start focusing. Some people swear by them, especially when it comes to helping them get through boring or unpleasant tasks. Unfortunately, the fidgets, especially the spinny kind, are also driving a lot of other people crazy.
The basic three-pronged version, which can be found for about $5 to $7 at local toy stores and for less online, is held in between your thumb and index finger. You spin and then let go of one finger so that the fidget balances on the other. However, hundreds of schools across America, and now some in New Zealand too, have reportedly banned fidgets. In a recent Facebook post it was written that “although they are seeming harmless,” they can pull student and staff attention away from class and can even be dangerous if thrown. Cristina Bolusi Zawacki, a sixth-grade English teacher, referred to them as “helicopters of distraction” in a blog post that went viral. A parent warned others via Facebook that the gadgets can come apart and pose a choking hazard. Her 10-year-old had swallowed one of the bearings and had to be taken to the hospital.
However, a large majority of children continue to use fidget spinners. Though parents on Facebook have been quoted as saying, “I have absolutely no hope it’s going to help them concentrate better. I don’t see them interacting with them in a way that would be a real fidget device for homework or in class. For them, it’s just a fun toy.”
However, this is not necessarily a problem. So what? The market releases new toys constantly. This is simply a trend that, while popular – is inevitably going to pass like any other. Children’s toys are often choking hazards and could cause injury if thrown or used inappropriately. Provided there is a warning label, this seems to be no different than any other toy. To ban fidget spinners seems a little bit far-fetched and a little bit more extreme. Is this an example of adults trying to ruin a bit of fun, or are they trying to keep us safe?
I’ll be honest – I love them.
Critical Thinking Challenges:
1. Are fidget spinners a distraction?
2. Discuss the benefits of anxiety and fidget relievers such as fidget spinners. Try to think outside the box.
3. Are fidget spinners any more hazardous than the usual child’s toy?
1. Ask your parents whether they think they are a good idea and what the pros and cons of them are?
2. Look online! Try and find a general opinion from the online community. Are they a hazard or a help? Or just annoying?
3. Research the amount of fidget spinners being sold. Will they be as big a trend as anticipated or are they already decreasing in popularity?