Are Fidget Spinners the New Pokemon Go?

Children are obsessing over this new toy while teachers find it a nuisance in the classroom. Touted as stress-relievers, fidget spinners are the latest craze but seem to be doing more harm than good

By Sahana Charan

Are Fidget Spinners the New Pokemon Go?

“It is so cool. I just feel I want to finish my assignments quickly so that I can start playing with my fidget spinner.” -- This is the typical remark you will hear from a school-going child who has recently got his hands on the current toy addiction to affect children and even adults.

After Pokemon Go sent everyone into a spin last year, with complaints of trespassing against players of the virtual reality game becoming common, it is now the turn of the fidget spinner.

This particular gadget is proving to be a big distraction in the classroom, with teachers getting into a tizzy as children are fixated to the spinning toy and do not pay attention to their lessons. While some sensory toys have the ability to relieve anxiety, this one is proving to be a nuisance -- so much so that some schools here have banned it from their premises.

“I don’t play with my fidget spinner during class hours but it is a good way of killing time and to get relief from boredom, especially while travelling by train. It keeps my mind occupied,” says a 6th standard student.

Most popular toy

There is no doubt that fidget spinners have become the most popular toy in recent times and this can be gauged by the innumerable videos posted online on how to use it and do various tricks. One particular video on how to use a fidget spinner has more than 7 million views. Another one posted a few days ago demonstrating tricks with different types of spinners, has close to 4 million views.

The obsession among school-goers in the west is such that many schools in the UK and US have banned the toy on their premises. There is even a change.org petition filed by students in Virginia to lift the ban on fidget spinners in a particular school there.

Closer home in India, fidget spinners are now available on street corners and in traffic signals in most of the metros. Children try new tricks every day spinning it on their fingers, palms and toes. One parent noted that children playing with the toy on moving school buses face the danger of injury.

In this video, an expert on attention-deficit disorders busts myths about the benefits of fidget spinner :    

What is a fidget spinner?

Fidget spinners are small-sized gadgets that have three prongs and a ball bearing in the middle that makes it spin. They are made of various materials such as steel, brass or plastic and have become hugely popular with school children. Manufacturers have been marketing them as a stress-busting toy that help fidgety kids to focus. This toy may be helpful to some extent as it is supposed to have a hypnotic effect on the player while it spins and this helps in relaxing. But it is not for everyone and can adversely affect concentration.

"These tiny, innocent looking things are not really causing any harm unless they end up in school. I wanted to explain to my kids that they are 'tools' for ADHD and not 'toys'. I could see that the entire market for them was created through YouTube videos and is nothing but a fad. But when we bought our first one, I could really not see any harm in them. The trouble began, however, after my daughter started sneaking them off to school," says Lata, founder of Fabulous Mom Life.   

"I completely agree with the ban on them in schools and wouldn't protest if the school administration confiscated them like they did with scoobie strings a while ago. In school, they are only causing disturbance among students and everyone around them. If students with ADHD need them at school, a few rules should be made for their use so that others are not disturbed. While they are known to work for satisfying a need to fidget (chewing gum and tapping your foot are also equally satisfying, reports say), in places like schools where you need to concentrate, these tools have no use. As a toy, at home, I really don't mind my kids having a few of them. They are silent, affordable, don't take up too much space and an assortment of them can be collected like Bey Blades. It all boils down to how you regulate their use," adds Lata. 

Trouble in the classroom

“Many of the high school students bring the toy to class and distract other children. Many teachers have complained that it comes in the way of learning and affects concentration. Children have a contest as to whose toy spins the fastest and which one looks better and they start a fight over it. Even during breaks, instead of playing outdoors, many kids will be sitting and spinning the fidget spinner. So, teachers have given strict instructions that it should not be taken out in class,” says Finita Roy, Counsellor at Bala Vidya Mandir.

She added that when teachers have specifically asked some of the older children not to bring it, they are quick to retort that it helps them stay calm and focussed. Some schools have already sent out circulars, after the problem got out of hand. “Some of the students would not copy down notes from the board. They quickly finish their class assignments and start toying with the fidget spinner. The other children would get distracted. Many of them started neglecting their tests. So we sent a circular to parents that fidget spinners were banned in class and if anyone was seen playing with it, the gadget would be confiscated,” says Sheeba Reddy, a teacher at Bethany High School, Bengaluru.

Do fidget spinners really help?

Psychologists point out that there are no scientific research studies that support the view that the toy is a stress-buster or helps autistic children. 

“Initially, fidget spinners were introduced for children with autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorders as they tend to keep the child's attention focused on the spinning. These are now marketed as helpful for all children and this claim is baseless,” says Dr Sulata Shenoy, Psychologist and Director of Turning Point Centre for Psychological Assessments, Therapies and Counseling.

According to her, the consequences of playing with such toys can be harmful. Children can be diverted easily to these spinners and they may stay away from creative and mentally stimulating play activities. Children need to physically play with each other rather than be confined to repetitive spinning activity which has no benefit either physically, mentally, socially or emotionally.

So like the Pokemon Go, will the hype around the fidget spinner fade away ? We have to wait and see.

Fidget spinners are not just the latest craze, they also make for hilarious tweets : 

Interesting facts about fidget spinners 

1.The gadget was invented in 1996 and was called the Spinning Toy.

2.The toy became a sensation in its present form only since 2016.

3.There is a toy similar to the fidget spinner called the fidget cube, which has buttons on it.

4.There are thousands of videos online showing tricks to do with the gadget.

5.There are different varieties of fidget spinners -- Batman and Iron Man spinners, fidget spinners made of wood and gold and even those with LED lights.

Parents, click this link to take a poll and tell us what you think of this latest toy fad.