Do Fidget Spinners Actually Help, or Are They Just Toys?
Last week, we dove into fidget spinners, the newest fad to sweep the nation's youth. Kids (and some adults) are filming themselves performing "tricks" will the ball-bearing-based toys, and schools are already cracking down on their use in the classroom.
And that might be for a good reason. Other than the fact that they can double as projectiles or just be a nuisance, some experts believe that they actually do more harm than good when it comes to calming the adolescent brain.
After all, that was their whole purpose originally: Create a soothing way for children bursting with energy to channel that energy into something positive and, most importantly, not destructive.
From a teacher's standpoint, they can disrupt the classroom dynamic by making noise. A music teacher told NPR that the "whirring" acts as a "siren call" for other students to watch whomever is playing with the toy.
"Of course, [students] drop them, and they clatter and pieces of them fall out, and then they're chasing ball bearings around the room," another teacher told NPR. "It just adds to the chaos."
Back to the topic of the toys supposedly acting as a calming agent to suppress fidgety children: That might not be as true as we believed. Scott Kollins, a clinical psychologist and professor at Duke University, told NPR that there's actually "no evidence to support" the claim that the toys help people focus, and help people control things like post-traumatic stress disorder or ADHD.
"I know there's lots of similar toys, just like there's lots of other games and products marketed toward individuals who have ADHD," Kollins said. "And there's basically no scientific evidence that those things work across the board."
Kollins fears that due to the large number of children diagnosed with ADHD, some parents are desperately looking for help with their children, which could set them up for predatory marketing.
"If their description says specifically that this can help for ADHD, they're basically making false claims, because these have not been evaluated in proper research," Kollins said. "It's important for parents and teachers who work with ADHD to know that there are very well studied and documented treatments that work, and that they're out there, so there's not really quick and easy fixes like buying a toy. It's important that people don't get into trying these fads when we do have treatments that can help these kids."
However, while fidget spinners haven't been proven to help with things like ADHD or anxiety, the proof of their popularity is in the pudding. They're everywhere right now. And whether or not children seek them out as a means of therapy or just as a fun toy to spin around on their fingers, they're at peak popularity. And that makes for great promotional items. Distributors would be wise to avoid preaching their therapeutic benefits just yet, though, until the proper scientific evidence comes out.