As if worrying about funding and quality teachers weren’t enough, now schools on both sides of the Atlantic are dealing with a mighty serious problem of another sort: fidget spinners and their cousins, fidget cubes.
The little gadgets supposedly meant to help kids focus in school are bothering teachers and administrators so much that they are being banned or otherwise restricted in classrooms in the United States and the United Kingdom. Why? Because they can be distracting when kids use them as toys to do tricks — such as trying to balance them on their noses — and, some say, because they can be dangerous if the tricks go awry and the spinning gadget hits someone.
Fidget spinners are little devices with a bearing in the center of shaped material — plastic, stainless steel, etc. — that can be spun by the holder. They are often marketed as a stress-relief device for people who can’t sit still, and some companies directly appeal to kids who have a hard time focusing in class. Some of the devices make noise when they spin; others don’t.
Invented more than a dozen years ago, the toys have suddenly become so popular that “Saturday Night Live” made them the focus of a skit on a recent show. Popular online videos explain how to do tricks (one has more than 5 million views; another posted just a week ago about music to go with your fidget spinning already has more than 600,000 views) and stores can’t keep them in stock.
Schools and individual teachers in Florida, Illinois, New York, Virginia and other states are banning them from classrooms, while others are taking the fidget spinners away from kids who seem too distracted by them — or are distracting others. According to Working Mother, schools in at least 11 states have banned them and more are likely to do so.
On April 24, the Carroll Gardens School for Innovation/M.S.442 in Brooklyn posted this on its Facebook page, reflecting the concerns of administrators at other schools as well:
Dear M.S. 442 Families,
The safety, well-being and education of your children has always been our main concern. Occasionally, there are toys and gadgets that are trending in the media that all the kids seem to want. The latest is an object called a “fidget spinner” that kids are bringing to school.
Although seemingly harmless, these items are being taken out during class causing a distraction to students and staff. They are also being thrown around during transition in the hallways to and from class and in the cafeteria and at recess. They are small in size, but can seriously hurt someone.
In an effort to prevent injuries, we must officially ban these fidget spinners from being brought into our school. Please discuss this matter with your child, as we have, so they understand how important it is that all students and staff remain safe at MS 442. We will ask your child to surrender the item to an adult if it is brought to school and in turn, a staff member will call to advise you of the situation.
Please note that if your child has a sensory issue and needs a fidget, we have them on hand.
Thank you for your continued support.
In Virginia, a petition was started on change.org to persuade officials at Holman Middle School in Glen Allen to reverse a ban on fidget spinners and cubes. One student who signed it wrote:
I’m signing because fidget spinners help and need to be unbaned. They help you stay awake during class
Another student wrote:
I think this is important because of the fact that some people need to fidget when they are bored. Please take our petition into consideration.
Not all students apparently feel that way. At the Churchill Academy in England, where the gadgets are being banned as well, headmaster Chris Hildrew tweeted that a 7-year-old girl wrote a letter to him saying she wanted them banned, according to this story in the Telegraph. She wrote:
“When you are trying to focus on your work, all you can hear is it spinning round and round. If someone around you has one you kind of get attracted to it because they are trying to do tricks and everyone else is looking at it. This means that I am not doing my hardest on my work so I get less done.”
— Chris Hildrew (@chrishildrew) April 28, 2017
And finally, there are some folks who just don’t get why the fidget spinner craze is, in fact, a craze: