A series of dangerous incidents involving fidget spinners has parents, schools, and even government officials worried about the safety of this latest toy fad. At least two children in the United States were hospitalized after swallowing fidget spinner pieces, according to News 4 Jacksonville. While the concerns over dangers are very real for parents of young children, fidget spinner proponents claim that the toy can actually be therapeutic for individuals with autism and other conditions.
What Are Fidget Spinners?
A fidget spinner is a small handheld toy that features a central disk that the user holds while attached arms (usually three) spin after being touched. Most fidget spinners contain ball bearings that make possible the fidget spinner’s unique, hypnotic movement. According to Live Science, fidget spinners have been marketed as tools for combating autism, anxiety, and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). Fidget spinners rose to popularity this spring, seemingly coming out of nowhere. However, parents of children with autism have sung the praises of the toy long before fidget spinners enjoyed mainstream appeal. Live Science reports that Miriam Gwynne, a blogger and mother of an 8-year-old girl with autism, was thrilled at the benefits of the fidget spinner, stating,
“For her, the fidget spinner is not a must-have craze to be like her friends, but more a stress release from the demands placed upon her during her school day — much the same as she uses a stress ball or her twist-and-lock blocks”
While the benefits of fidget spinners for children with autism are clear, there is controversy over the effectiveness of these toys for treating symptoms of ADHD. According to Live Science, Mark Rapport, a clinical psychologist at the University of Central Florida, has stated that fidget spinners may actually serve as a distraction for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, claiming that the visual element of the toy may steal attention away from teachers and that the movement related to the use of the toy is not of the sort that typically alleviates ADHD symptoms. Rapport clarified that gross body movement is more likely to increase crucial activity to the frontal and prefrontal brain regions than the fine motor motion that is required to operate the fidget spinner.
How Can Fidget Spinners Endanger Children?
Although fidget spinners may seem harmless or even beneficial to some, there may be risks associated with the use of this toy, especially for very young children. Most fidget spinners contain ball bearings in the “arms” of the toy that give rise to its characteristic spin. In some cases, these small parts can break or fall out of the fidget spinner, posing a choking hazard to small children. According to ABC News, the Consumer Product Safety Commission opened an investigation into fidget spinners after two American children swallowed parts of the toy. The first reported incident was that of a 10-year-old girl from Houston, Texas, who needed surgery to remove the part of the toy that she had swallowed. The second case was that of a 5-year-old boy from Oregon who had to be rushed to the hospital after swallowing a piece of a fidget spinner.
According to News 4 Jackson, these stories have prompted concerned parents to demand a recall of the toy. Johely Morelos, the mother of the 5-year-old Oregon boy, has teamed up with a child safety advocacy group to push for a fidget spinner recall as well as a required choking hazard warning. ABC News reports that Nancy Cowles, executive director of the nonprofit organization Kids in Danger, has suggested that children are choking on the toys because they are falling apart. This observation affirms the opinions of some parents who feel safer purchasing fidget spinners from reputable brands.
Fidget Spinner Bans
Several U.S. schools have made headlines recently as a result of their decision to ban fidget spinners. However, concerns cited have more to do with behavioral issues than physical safety issues. ABC News reports that schools are banning fidget spinners because they see them as a distraction.
According to BBC News, the Republic of Ireland is one government entity that is reacting to the safety concerns over fidget spinners. Customs officials impounded over 200,000 fidget spinners after the country’s Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) stated that some fidget spinners may not meet EU safety standards. Several spinners that were examined were determined to be non-compliant after officials saw that there was no visible safety mark, called a CE mark, on the products. A spokeswoman for the CCPC explained,
“We are currently examining samples of those products. If we find that products are incompliant with product safety legislation, the products may be sent back to where they originally came from or destroyed.”
The Fate Of The Fidget Spinner
As parents and government officials struggle with weighing the pros and cons of these unique toys, they are growing ever more popular. It is unknown whether the efforts of those aiming to eliminate the fidget spinner will pay off or will only serve to embolden aficionados of this hot new trend.
[Featured Image by Gemma Ferrando/Shutterstock]