My first-grade daughter informed me the other day that she needs a fidget spinner. Needs one.
Why? Oh, she told me, because everyone else in her class has one.
That compelling argument aside, I said no. In fact, I said no way, never, uh-uh, not gonna happen. No.
In case you’ve missed the latest gotta-have-it-because-everyone-else-does trend among kids, I present to you the fidget spinner.
The simple tool can be spun in endless circles with one flick, allowing children to play with them discreetly during school. The theory here is that some children get so bored/antsy/fidgety that they need an outlet for their jitters. Some people insist that children with ADHD can concentrate better in school by channeling their energy into a fidget spinner.
It’s an interesting theory (that is explored on time.com), and one that has yet to be proved in any way. But here’s the problem — not every kid needs one, as my daughter so unpersuasively explained. Yes, there are kids out there with attention-deficit or sensory issues that may benefit from a discreet energy outlet, but those kids are in the minority. Assuming every kid is incapable of sitting through a class period without simultaneously flicking a small toy in their lap is simply ridiculous.
The backlash against fidget spinners has been pretty intense, with some school districts banning the toy and parents decrying the distraction to other children.
But all those arguments are not getting at the real problem here: Our children are overstimulated. The rise of fidget spinners is just one more example of how we are raising children who wholly rely on external devices to keep them entertained.
Our children are terrified of not being constantly engaged. Why? Because we have constantly engaged them. My generation of parents has filled every moment with activities, enrichments, sports and a million other things so that when a quiet moment presents itself to our children, they panic. Hurry! Fill the void! Do something!
And most often, they turn to an external device to do the job. Flashing lights on screens, apps on iPads and now, tiny, whirly-twirly nonsense that fits in their pockets.
Here’s the kicker: I have my own fidget spinner. It’s called an iPhone. I reach for it as soon as there is a lull in conversation or a stoplight or a moment in my life that isn’t already filled with something else.
We are a generation of stimulation junkies and our kids are following right behind us. Just like I do in a free moment, my kids reach for a phone or a fidget spinner or a keyboard. Something — anything — to keep the stimulation high going. Because they need it. They don’t know how to exist without it.
So, no, my children will not be getting a fidget spinner. In fact, the whole idea of fidget spinners has made me realize my kids need a stimulation detox. They need to let their minds wander instead of their fingers. I want them to not be afraid of silence, of stillness, of being absolutely unproductive and unentertained for five minutes.
To the parents of kids who may actually benefit from fidget spinners, go for it. A tool like this might do wonders to help your child concentrate and channel his or her energy in a productive way.
But for those of us with kids like mine who “need one” because it’s the new thing, don’t be afraid to say no. The last thing they need is one more item in their repertoire of stimulation devices.
What they need is a break — a moment to shut off their minds and their devices. They need more recess and less fidgeting behind desks. More quiet time and less white noise. Fewer screens and more free play.
Above all, we all need less spinning of both the wheels in our heads and the devices in our hands.