Driving down Holly Street in downtown Bellingham the other day, I noticed a storefront sign that assured the public “We have spinners!” For those of you who don’t have school-aged kids, you might not know that these aren’t parts of fishing gear. Fidget spinners, as they are formally called, have exploded in popularity recently. It’s a ball-bearing toy that spins continuously when you rotate it, unlike an old-fashioned top that loses its momentum and balance. Some spinner fans attest to benefits from the devices like stress reduction and helping reduce symptoms in children with ADD and autism. However, some spinners aren’t just limited to popularity in their explosions.
There’s a downside to these devices, from the mundane to the dangerous. They’ve become distractions in classrooms, and many schools and teachers have banned the devices. Sure, everyone fidgets but a pencil doesn’t play music, and we all know by know that the brain cannot successfully execute two cognitive tasks at once. Recent studies have found safety risks associated with the fidget spinners as well.
Fidget spinners are a choking hazard, and some children have been rushed to the hospital after inhaling small fidget spinner pieces. The way the toys work is by a set of small prongs and plastic pieces connected to a circular pad. Users will hold the pad between thumb and finger, and spin the wings with their other fingers. The brushings can pop out easily, and those small parts can be a choking hazard.
One such incident was innocent enough. A Texas mother was driving along while her daughter played with the spinner in the backseat. The mother heard her child choke, which necessitated a trip to the ER and emergency surgery to remove the device from her throat. The child had tried to clean the spinner in her mouth, and accidentally swallowed the device.
In Oregon, a fidget spinner broke and sent small pieces flying. One metal bearing went into a child’s mouth, and the object also had to be surgically removed.
Now the latest: they are exploding in flames. To catch the ever-growing wave of fidget spinner popularity, they’ve quickly evolved to hold Bluetooth-enabled speakers. The batteries must be charged, and sometimes burst into flames, just like another device that relies on batteries – the ubiquitous e-cigarette. The Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a statement about the toys’ new-found dangers:
Never charge a product with batteries overnight while you are sleeping. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and use the charger from the manufacturer that is designed specifically for your device.
CPSC is also investigating reported incidents involving children and fidget spinners. We advise parents to keep fidget spinners away from young children, because they can choke on small parts. Warn older children not to put fidget spinners in their mouths.
No product can be guaranteed safe. It’s important to educate oneself about the dangers and try to prevent injury – especially to children. Parents, please explain the risks and dangers of these toys to your kids, enforce rules and limits to their use, and keep them away from kids who are unable to understand how to safety use these devices.