Are Fidget Spinners Bad for Your Brain?

Fidget spinners exploded in popularity in 2017, quickly becoming one of the hottest new toys and trends. The simple devices consist of a bearing in the center and usually two or three paddle-like blades that can spin freely around. Fidget spinners are designed to be spun using your fingers, allowing you to fidget discreetly. But ever since they became ubiquitous in schools, offices, and homes, concerns have emerged that fidget spinners may actually be bad for your brain. Let’s take a look at what experts have to say.

Proponents of fidget spinners claim they can help improve focus and concentration, relieve stress, and calm restlessness or anxiety. The logic is that by occupying your hands with the spinners, you give your brain something harmless to do while you’re sitting in class or in a meeting. This outlet could prevent you from succumbing to worse distractions like doodling, checking your phone, or chatting with others.

However, scientific evidence that fidget spinners boost concentration or reduce anxiety is slim to none. Most experts argue there simply haven’t been enough quality studies to demonstrate any cognitive benefits. One 2017 study found students who used fidget spinners performed worse on memory and attention tests. Critics also say the spinning toys can become distractions themselves rather than tools to reduce distraction. The sound and motion of the fidget spinner can divert the attention of you and those around you.

There are also concerns that excessive use of fidget spinners could have negative effects on brain development in children. One worry is that children will become so accustomed to constant stimulation from fidget spinners and other devices that they will lose the ability to maintain focus without such aids. Relying on toys rather than developing inner tools to concentrate could be detrimental in the long run. There is also a fear that fidget spinners can become addictive, much like video games and smartphones have for some individuals. Kids may come to crave the constant stimulation and satisfaction that fidget spinners provide, making it difficult to engage in other activities without that external stimulus.

However, most experts agree these concerns about long-term brain development are theoretical at this point, without strong data to back them up. The bigger issue is the immediate distraction fidget spinners can cause in classrooms and other settings where concentration is important. For this reason, many schools have banned fidget spinners or restricted their use to break times. Teachers find them too disruptive as students are often more preoccupied with performing tricks and getting attention for their spinners than with paying attention in class.

Moderation seems to be the key if you or your kids enjoy fidget spinners. Using them for a few minutes to refocus during free time is likely harmless. But allowing unchecked use of fidget spinners to constantly stimulate and entertain you could push your brain to require that external stimulation to focus. As with most things, used responsibly, the occasional fidget spinner break is fine. But overusing them could indeed train your brain to need more distraction and stimulation in your life rather than less.

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