Fidget Spinners: Good Or Bad For Kids' Concentration?

May 6, 2017
Originally published on May 6, 2017 10:39 am
Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

You heard of fidget spinners? I'm playing with one right now. It's a kind of fluorescent green, and it just spins and spins. I was skeptical, but it's fun. The fad has also become a little controversial. We noticed when some of our colleagues started to post desperate messages on Facebook about fidget spinners and their children.

SCOTT HENSLEY: They came home. I don't know maybe a week or so ago, and it's like all they wanted to talk about.

GISELE GRAYSON: I got suckered in. We're - I let them use their allowance money and we've ordered a 10-pack.

KENYA YOUNG: And he was like, Mom, there's these things at school. Yeah, I know what they are - fidget spinners. You're not getting one. Let's move on.

SIMON: My colleagues, Scott Hensley, Gisele Grayson and Kenya Young. Fidget spinners are advertised as helping people concentrate at work or in the classroom, but do they really distract? Some schools have banned them, so we wondered, what do teachers think?

JENNIFER HORN: I hate them. I absolutely hate spinners.

SIMON: Jennifer Horn is a middle school counselor.

HORN: Students will hold the spinner in their hand and they'll spin it - above the desk, usually - and kids move it through the air. They try to spin it on their noses and their elbows and kind of play around with it like a toy. And then there's usually kids looking at the child playing with the spinner. It's just pretty distracting.

SIMON: Not all teachers see it that way.

GLORIA CHESBRO: I have a lot of kids on the spectrum...

SIMON: Gloria Chesbro is a sixth-grade teacher.

CHESBRO: ...Between ADHD and Asperger's and ADD. And what I'm seeing is - with these spinners is, with parameters set of course, a quieter classroom. I'm seeing kids that can concentrate better on class discussion, even writing. I'm seeing it - in almost every aspect of their class activities - being something that's helping them concentrate.

SIMON: Steven Frank, a middle school teacher, also sees benefits.

STEVEN FRANK: I find a little bit of distraction for students is healthy in a classroom. I don't want them being perfectly still. If they need to move around, to have some device at their desk that they can spin, I think it's perfectly fine.

SIMON: Except maybe for one characteristic of the fidget spinner.

FRANK: They sometimes go airborne. A kid will spin it and let it out of his hands to see what happens, and if that should strike another kid in the head, then we do have a problem.

SIMON: Sure, but wouldn't that get their attention? Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.