Fidget spinners are the latest fad among children, but claims that the gizmos help students pay attention aren't backed by science. Some retailers market the devices as a way to help kids with anxiety, autism or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, keep themselves calm and focused in the classroom. However, there have been no studies showing that fidget spinners benefit kids struggling to stay still.
We found five reasons, why normal children shouldn't be discouraged to use Fidget Spinner.
1. Fidget Spinner is meant for children with Autism
Canara Brooks (name changed on request) a teacher of a reputed school for kids with special needs in Sydney, Australia says, "Yes, originally it was created to develop fine motor skills in children with Autism and special educational needs."
"Fidgets are great tools for kids who need them, as long as there are ground rules set up with the child and educator in advance, and as long as the child can follow the rules," United States Maryland-based occupational therapist Katherine Ross-Keller writes.
Dr Sanjay Ranaut, a senior ENT surgeon working with the Himachal Pradesh government explains, "Fidget spinners let a person stay at a particular position till the spinning takes place. This can be helpful if used as a rehab for people with muscular dystrophies or people with acquired tremors as is seen in certain kinds of metabolic and endocrine disorders. But this has to be used under supervision and for a time bound manner. When used as toy it can pose problems of excessive use and distraction rather than serving the purpose of concentration."
2. Addictive Toy
Banker Javed S Ameer's five-year-old daughter Aisha refuses to do her homework unless a half-hour break is allotted to her with her 'pink buddy.' The buddy entered the house as a return gift from a birthday party only a month back. And now it is a headache for the parents.
People who use them say it is the sensation that comes from holding a fast-spinning contraption. "Tilting back and forth while it spins generates various spinning forces plus the thrill to keep it that way, hooks you longer...again and again," said Jitin Singh, a toy shop owner.
Child Psychologist from New Delhi, Shabana Siddiqui writes, "Spinners are addictive because of two reasons...one is their visual rotation effect which gives a hypnotic feeling from the beginning. Second, it acts as a temporary distraction from the current stressful situation the person is in. Thus it acts as an instant reliever of anxiety and stress. Constant looking at it also improves focusing ability of a child hence it helps in concentration, for those have trouble in sustaining attention. But then excess of everything...even good is bad."
With even adults getting addicted to it, there are special spinners designed for them. Journalist Janvi Khajuria and her Pilot husband Nakul Lamba comically confess that they love spinning the fidget. But they are a bit worried about their one-year-old son.
3. Spinner parts are choking hazards
An unofficial report says, spinners could contain dangerous amounts of lead. The report comes from Tamara Rubin, an internationally recognized lead-poisoning prevention advocate and documentary filmmaker from the United States. Rubin tested a handful of fidget spinners at her home, using a device called an X-ray fluorescence spectrometer, which measures levels of elements in materials. Two of the 11 fidget spinners she tested had very high levels of lead. One fidget spinner that she tested, for example, had an LED light that popped out when the toy broke. The battery for this LED light contained 19,000 parts per million (ppm) of lead. Rubin also said she detected lead in the chamber of the toy that holds the battery.
The amount of lead that's considered safe for children's toys is 90 ppm or 100 ppm, depending on the type of product, according to international standards. If toys contain an unsafe amount of lead, children could ingest the lead, either by putting the toy in their mouths or by getting lead on their fingers while handling the toy and then putting their fingers in their mouths. Lead is toxic to the body, and in high enough amounts, it can cause damage to the brain, liver and kidneys, according to the World Health Organization.
4. Watch your child's eyes!
Several schools in the United Kingdom have banned these spinners. Not only due to children being distracted by it but after several incidents of eye injuries to children who played with it.
A terrified Suman D Dagar, homemaker from New Delhi recalls, "The thrill isn't just about spinning it without letting it fall, but also throwing it up in the air and catching it back while the spin lasts. My son was attempting the same last month, almost lost his right eye."
5. It isn't a learning device
Sapna Bakshi who works at JobsForHer in Bangalore, finds the toy a waste of time, "I didn't let my six-year-old son buy it as I consider it a waste of time and money. There is no learning. I rather would allow him my laptop to watch something educative while we travel or at leisure. But not a fidget."
Dr Yusuf Afaque, a former surgeon at All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi and now a professor at the Aligarh Muslim University backs Sapna, "Real games and sports which are vital for children's physical, mental and social health are out and virtual games which leads to physical, mental and social lethargy are in. Studies are there that even when the child is playing alone they are in the process of exploring themselves, their surroundings and the world so don't try to engage them with something all the time."
But then there are others like former hotelier and an expatriate in Dubai, Swati Smita who opines it is for the parents to control their children. "I just feel it is a trend that has picked up and will die down like all others once another new toy comes," Swati asserts keeping a watchful eye at her son Ryansh spinning the fidget smiling at her.
So better be watchful before it harms your child.
*Mahima Sharma is a freelance contributor