…Those Blasted Fidget Spinners!

If you’re an educator, you’ve probably seen these devices creep into your school within the last few weeks. If you’re a parent, you’ve probably had your child begging you to buy them one so they can be like their friends. There have been the immediate bannings and the toy vs device debates. Show one to someone, and you’ll quickly find out their thoughts on the topic.

Welcome to the world of fidget spinners, the latest trend to hit schools. Like any other trend, once it catches, it catches quickly and without much warning. Like the ways of predecessors (beanie babies, slap bracelets, Pokemon cards, virtual pets, etc.), once the trend hit, it was sticking around for a time. Only time will tell exactly how long it lasts.

Fidget spinners come in different shapes and colors. They range from very cheap to very expensive, and can be found in online shops and gas stations alike. Fidget spinners are designed to help those with ADHD, ADD, anxiety and the like to focus on tasks at hand. However, they can also be used as a toy, and you can even do all kinds of tricks with them, like this video:

My school district has been hit by the craze. I work between the middle school and the high school, and I see many middle school students with a variety of spinners. Most of them use them as a toy, rather than a helpful device. I do enjoy walking the hallways and asking a kid for their fidget spinner. I love watching their eyes get wide because they think I’m going to confiscate their spinner. In reality, I tell them that since they had it, I wanted to try it out and test it.

This led to me picking up my own spinner. Actually I got a 2 pack because it was discounted, but they’re both the same. Mine were about $16 each bought separately so they aren’t the cheap gas station ones, but they also aren’t the fancy expensive ones. I have been keeping my spinner in my pocket, all the while considering ways of appropriate and inappropriate uses. Mostly I carry it when walking and absently spin it in my right hand as I go, but I can see myself using it at meetings to focus instead of my usual tapping and doodling that I am fond of doing.

I’ve also read articles online in support of and against the device. Based upon my reading, it seems that parents should be teaching children at home how to appropriately use the fidget spinner as a device to focus. Like with any other tool, we can’t give it to them and expect them to know the appropriate use innately. Use the spinner to teach appropriate ways to use it in public so that it’s not bothering others. At the same time, let them know when it’s okay to use it as a toy, such as when at home or alone away from others. Yes, I’ve used mine like a toy – at home. I’ve spun it on my fingers and tried to learn some tricks. However, this isn’t something I’d do in public to occupy my hands.

Teachers that I’ve found in support of the spinner talk of setting boundaries and a management plan for classroom use. This means getting the students involved and discussing how it can be used for focus in the classroom, appropriate times in the classroom, and what happens when inappropriate uses occur, which can include banning at the very extreme. Others are in support of it only if the child’s 504 or IEP calls for a tool for fidgeting.

Those against the spinner argue that it’s a distraction and that students are playing, trading, and focusing more on the spinner than what they should be doing. For some students, it will never be more than a toy to play with, collect, and trade. This is where the bans have come into play in school districts.

In the end, it seems like the fidget spinner has its pros and cons, depending on how it’s used and who uses it. I would say to give it some time to see if the trend dies down, and then see who still carries them about. Chances are, those people are either die hard fans or they really do need the fidget spinner.

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