Fidget spinners — those little lobed gizmos that come in various shapes and colors, mesmerizing children — have been dubbed one of the top 10 “summer safety traps” by a consumer watchdog group.
World Against Toys Causing Harm released a report Wednesday warning parents about the dangers of the toys, which it said “have the potential to lead to tragic or deadly consequences.”
“Do not be lulled into a false sense of security that a toy is safe simply because it is popular,” James Swartz, the group’s director, said in a statement.
Fidget spinners have become the latest toy craze — twirling atop so many children’s fingers that some teachers have banned them from classrooms.
But the widespread popularity, it seems, has not come without risk.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission has been investigating reported incidents involving the toys. The commission advises parents to “keep these away from young children, because they can choke on small parts. Warn older children not to put fidget spinners in their mouths,” commission spokeswoman Patty Davis said in a statement to The Washington Post.
In May, a Texas mother issued a warning to other parents on social media, saying her 10-year-old had swallowed a bearing that detached from a fidget spinner.
Kelly Rose Joniec, from Houston, said she was driving when she heard her daughter make “an odd retching noise” in the back seat, then noticed the child was drooling and pointing to her throat, according to the Houston Chronicle. Her daughter was taken to a children’s hospital, where she had to have surgery to remove the chunk of metal.
“Fortunately we had a positive outcome, but it was pretty scary there for a while,” Joniec wrote on Facebook at the time, according to the newspaper. “Not only because of the initial ingestion, but the concern about the composition and structure of the object, and finally, the risk with general anesthesia.”
Less than two weeks later, a mother in Oregon was spreading the same message after her 5-year-old son swallowed a piece from the toy, according to reports.
“If I would have known that the toy came apart, I would have never let him get ahold of it,” Johely Morelos told ABC affiliate KATU. “It was terrifying and was heartbreaking to see my child choking up blood,” she added. “I would never want another parent to go through what I did.”
Fidget spinners are marketed as an anti-stress tool — a so-called cross between a toy and a tool for people with attention-deficit disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and autism. But one psychologist said that’s all the spinners are — playthings.
Although some stressed-out people may find comfort from them, there is not any particular toy that must be used as a tool, said David Anderson, a clinical psychologist who heads the ADHD and Behavior Disorders Center at the Child Mind Institute.
“The claims related to fidget spinners helping with either anxiety or stress management or ADHD as if they’re a uniform treatment are dangerous for two reasons: One is that they don’t actually have any scientific evidence behind them to suggest that they over and above any other particular toy would cause stress relief or help with ADHD or anxiety. And the other reason why they’re dangerous is they’re pushing out discussions of actual interventions that work,” Anderson told The Post. “So in that sense, what I think the scientific community would prefer is that fidget spinners didn’t distract from, say, interventions for ADHD or anxiety that actually have a scientific record for being effective.”
That said, Anderson added, he is not going to invalidate anyone’s report that spinners help.
Regarding consumer safety, some retailers market fidget spinners for certain ages.
Learning Express Toys, which sells them, said fidget spinners are recommended for consumers ages 12 and older. The company has a warning on its website that reads “CHOKING HAZARD — Small parts. Not for children under 3 years.”
“Spinners are marked as a choking hazard containing small parts,” the company said in a statement to The Post. “However, we will also be placing signs in our stores to make sure parents are aware that spinners are a potential choking hazard. As with any toy, parents must choose age-appropriate toys and use caution if their child has a tendency to put things in their mouth.”
World Against Toys Causing Harm warned parents not to have “a false sense of security that a toy is safe” just because it is trendy, and to avoid choosing toys for young children that may be a choking hazard.
The Boston-based nonprofit has identified toys it considers dangerous since 1973.