By Savannah Schroering
The characteristic whirr of the popular device echoes from classroom to classroom. It spins effortlessly between two fingertips, supposedly helping students focus on their work more. As they have become more mainstream, the fidget spinner has slowly converted into a toy.
“I think it probably varies from child to child, and from situation to situation. For most students, probably distracting, because it’s something else they have to focus on and pay attention to. Instead of maybe being fully focused and fully engaged on what we’re talking about in class,” said psychology teacher Chad Clunie. “There are some psychologists and psychiatrists and doctors out there that are prescribing [fidget spinners] to those young kids who have ADD or ADHD, because it help them when it comes to fiddling or fidgeting. By fiddling or fidgeting with something, it helps them focus.”
Some students are annoyed by the fact that they have become popular.
“I feel that people just sit there and spin it the entire time and do not listen to the teacher, because they’re trying to figure out how long their fidget spinner will spin,” said sophomore Carter Blessing. “I believe that people who don’t have problems with focusing started using them as a distraction instead of a tool.”
Blessing also does not believe there is a psychological effect to using the spinner. “I’ve used one, and I’ve noticed no psychological effect for me, I just thought “oh, it spins.”
Science teacher Michelle Harbison agreed with Blessing. “I would be interested in seeing the person who is claiming that it helps people focus. I would like to see their empirical evidence to support the claim.”
Harbison offered some alternatives to using fidget spinners, which can make a lot of noise. “I honestly believe that there are probably alternatives to the spinners that would be useful and helpful to an individual student but not be distracting to others around. I would be a fan of looking for those alternatives. You know, stress balls and things that don’t make noise.”
Carter also expressed how noisy they can be in the classroom. “I don’t see them as much as last year, but last year they got pretty annoying. They began to rust and get dirty so they made a lot of noise in the classroom.”
While the original fidget spinners were made with the intent of helping people focus, they have turned into toys in the classroom and even memes.
“I get that they’re kinda cool, but I would like to see the empirical evidence that they are actually helping people,” said Harbison. “I really do think if you’re helping one person and distracting somebody else, that’s not a great solution. There are probably other things people can use if you’re going to claim that is what somebody needs. Toys are fun, but not in school.”
Senior Libby Sobieski argued for the side of fidget spinners being helpful. “This is where it gets to where the adults have to decide ‘should they be allowed’, and I think that people should have them if they do have ADD or anxiety.”
Clunie explained how fidgeting is an often occurrence with students that has certain disorders, and how these spinners could potentially help.
“We don’t have a cure for ADHD, but there was some research in the past that shows that manipulation of objects in the hands helped, so that’s where the fidget spinner came from. However, now you’ve seen it explode from there.”
The spinners can be distracting to a student’s selective attention, but there has been research that spinning the, can help students with some mental disorders focus. “And so, for most students, the more you have going on, the more you’re thinking about, and the more you’re messing with, the more difficult it is to have selective attention,” said Clunie. “Now, students who have ADD or ADHD, there is some research that shows that when they can manipulate things with their hands, that helps them focus a little bit more.”
The focusing aspect of the fidget spinner attracted a lot of people to use them.
“I think that’s where the concept came from. Obviously it’s become more of a pop cultural popular thing than what it is for a more medical purpose,” said Clunie.
In order to market a product to everyone, it must be generalized to a wider audience. This has made the fidget spinner become more of a toy, and it has received negative attention for that.
“I wouldn’t have a problem with them if people weren’t misusing them as much,” said Blessing.
Sobieski agreed with Blessing. “That’s what most people think about them these days. ‘They’re just toys to have fun with’, and that’s not the case. They’re a tool to keep you in line to help you focus. To not play with an object like a pencil. Fidget spinners should be used properly as what they were made to be.”