Should Parents be Concerned about the Fidget Spinner Craze?

Fidget spinners have taken the world by storm over the past few months – Kids want them, schools are banning them, manufacturers and websites are raving about the benefits.  In light of the rage surrounding these little gadgets, the question must be asked – “Should parents be concerned about the fidget spinner craze?” Read on to learn more about fidget spinners and whether they are a help or hindrance for your kids.

The Fidget Spinner Craze

In case you aren’t familiar with fidget spinners, they are small, hand-held devices made of metal or plastic.  They have a round finger pad in the center that is made up of ball bearings so the device easily spins.  Over the past few months, tens of millions have been sold across the United States.  The prices range from a few dollars to the thousands of dollars depending on the brand, model, and materials used.

Manufacturers and some psychologists claim that fidget spinners are helpful in getting children and adults to relax and focus.  They are argued to be especially helpful for children and adults with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, autism spectrum disorder, anxiety, or depression – conditions which are linked to inattention and sometimes uncontrollable fidgeting.

The use of fidget spinners is argued to fight boredom and help individuals focus better.  Individuals who often fidget mindlessly (leg bouncing, pencil tapping, etc.) are said to quiet down and focus more.  Further, individuals who exhibit repetitive movements or have difficulty with fine motor skills are said to benefit from fidget spinners in the same way they would doodling or hobbies like knitting.

Are Fidget Spinners Really Beneficial?

Opinions among the medical community are inconsistent about the benefits of fidget spinners.  What’s more, there are no scientific studies to support the assertions that they are, in fact, beneficial.  Research has shown that suppressing spontaneous fidgeting can affect an individual’s ability to focus and pay attention.  For example, telling a child to sit still in a classroom when he or she is spontaneously tapping a foot or twirling a pencil, can actually negatively affect their ability to pay attention and focus.

The flip side of the fidget spinner craze is the fact that fidgeting can also be disruptive and distracting – especially to individuals nearby.  This is especially a concern in the classroom, and many schools across the U.S.  have actually banned fidget spinners from being brought into the classroom.  Further, the part of the brain used to hold and manipulate a fidget spinner is the same part used for learning, memory, and visual skills.  This is a concern among many parents and teachers, as the child’s attention may be disrupted or redirected away from the learning environment.

Are Fidget Spinners Dangerous?

This is a question that many parents are asking, and rightfully so.  Currently, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is investigating fidget spinners to determine whether they pose a choking hazard for users – especially young children.  There are stories of the ball bearings coming loose and children choking, or the bearings becoming lodged in places they shouldn’t, such as the esophagus.  In Ireland, more than 200,000 fidget spinners have already been recalled for safety concerns.

In Texas, KHOU news has recently reported their own attempts to verify whether fidget spinners could contain dangerous levels of mercury or lead that could harm or even kill children.  Tamara Rubin, founder of Lead Safe America, warns parents that her own tests have shown dangerously high levels of lead and mercury in some brands of fidget spinner.

To find out more about the fidget spinner craze, and possible dangers, pediatrician Alok Patel at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons did some research of his own.  He interviewed colleagues, visited patients, and looked for research.  His findings definitely showed some reasons for parents to be concerned.  One pediatrician reported a child with a severe stress injury due to spinning a fidget spinner for eight hours without stopping.  Another pediatrician reported a child wasn’t paying attention playing with a fidget spinner while walking and stepped off a curb causing a chin laceration.

What About the Claims of Benefits and Science from Manufacturers?

If you have looked into buying a fidget spinner, you have seen the claims that they can “boost creativity”, “increase focus”, “reduce the effects of ADHD and autism”, and “stop bad habits”.  Unfortunately, any manufacturer can boast of scientific evidence, and the fact is, many parents won’t look to see if their “science” is really supported with evidence-based research.

Dr.  Patel’s recommendation? Fidget spinners are not scientifically proven to be beneficial, and should not be used as an alternative to evidence-based therapy or treatment programs.  Dr.  Adiaha Spinks-Franklin, a developmental-behavioral pediatrician at Texas Children’s Hospital warns parents to be cautious about pseudoscience.  Manufacturers may reference science, but that doesn’t mean that it applies to their specific product.

What Parents Can Do to Protect Kids

Parents should always be cautious when purchasing a product that boasts medical or cognitive benefits without first speaking to a doctor.  For kids who simply want to be part of the craze, parents should be cautious about where they purchase fidget spinners, and should inspect the product upon arrival.  Defects or damage could affect the safety of the spinner and should be reported to the manufacturer.

After finding lead and mercury in some fidget spinners tested, Tamara Rubin recommends purchasing spinners made in the U.S.  by companies who must comply with federal safety standards.  Most doctors agree that fidget spinners are not appropriate for toddlers or young children who are more likely to put the toys in their mouths.

If your child was injured due to a defective or dangerous fidget spinner or other product, contact an attorney to learn more about your rights as a consumer.  The team at Brown & Brothers can help ensure that you and your child get the legal guidance needed to hold manufacturers accountable.  Fill out our online form to get started.

Sources:

Fidget spinner craze: Help or hindrance?

http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/881034

http://www.khou.com/news/local/verify/verify-are-fidget-spinners-deadly/446414669