A fidget spinner is a triangular-shaped device made of either metal or hard plastic. It is sold on the premise that it will stop bad habits such as fingernail-biting and help children with learning disabilities such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Some reports claim the devices can genuinely help with stress and anxiety.
Rachel Landers, an occupational therapist and former Durban teacher now living in Atlanta in the US, said even though fidget spinners were marketed for children with ADHD, they had become popular with all children.
“There are reports from emergency rooms that children are coming in for swallowing small parts. About 200 000 spinners were recalled because they fall apart and are choking hazards. This is all according to local news,” she said.
While there have been no reported cases in South Africa, internationally posts have gone viral warning parents about the dangers of spinners. In one of the videos, the mother of a 10-year-old girl said her daughter choked after she had put a piece of the spinner in her mouth, and one of the parts came off, and she required surgery.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission in the US has issued a warning to parents to keep the spinners away from smaller children and to discourage older ones from putting the spinners near their mouths.
Raleen van Niekerk, a Durban occupational therapist, said although fidget spinners were being promoted for helping with ADD and ADHD, she and other teachers she works closely with believed they were more of a hindrance. “They cause more distractions than they help with focus and as a result, both schools where I run my practice from have banned them from the classrooms,” she said.
However, Van Niekerk added that spinners were fun and a great toy, and could be used creatively.